Chlamydia in the United States
According to the Center for Disease Control, a 2016 study of sexually active adults yielded some of the most surprising information in nearly a decade with respect to the spreading, contracting, and treatment of Chlamydia. The CDC studied Gonorrhea, Syphilis and Chlamydia. To nobody’s astonishment, Gonorrhea and Syphilis exhibited substantial increases; however the largest increase came with new cases of Chlamydia.
The data from the CDC would indicate that Chlamydia is the fastest growing STD in the United States. The number of new cases in 2015 reached an alarming 1.7 million. What makes this such a daunting task for health professionals is the overwhelming majority of those carrying the disease have no idea they are and have exhibited no symptoms.
Chlamydia is a disease that can cause serious long term health implications, especially in women. Women who are diagnosed with Chlamydia run an above average risk for something doctors refer to as Pelvic Inflammatory Disorder or PID. This disorder causes ectopic pregnancies, chronic pelvic pain and infertility. Associated with diseases like Chlamydia is their ability to facilitate transmission of HIV. Sexually Transmitted Diseases have a tendency to weaken the immune system making it opportunistic for HIV to be transmitted.
The CDC reports that in 2015 there were over 1.5 million new cases of Chlamydia reported in the United States. In terms of prevalence, this translates to roughly 478 new cases per 100,000 in population. In terms of geographic diversity, the southern region of the United States held the most number of Chlamydia cases with an average of 520 cases per 100,000 in population. The Midwest had the second highest number of Chlamydia cases with 464 per 100,000; in the Western states the rate was 462 per 100,000 and in the Northeastern states the rate was 425 per 100,000. In terms of which individual state had the highest rate of Chlamydia, the answer is surprising. According to the latest data, the state of Alaska has the highest rate of new Chlamydia cases at approximately 786 per 100,000. The state with the lowest number of new Chlamydia cases is New Hampshire with approximately 286 per 100,000. The largest number of Chlamydia cases anywhere in the United States is found in the District of Columbia with 994 cases per 100,000.
Despite these staggering numbers, and they are substantial, Chlamydia is one of the easier to treat diseases in its class. In most cases, Chlamydia can be exorcised with a simple dose of antibiotics. The problem lies in the fact that the only way Chlamydia can be treated is if an individual gets tested. With the overwhelming majority of sexually active individuals not seeking testing, the trend appears to have a long term upward trajectory. Additionally, the majority of testing facilities are funded by state and national governmental agencies. When funding is cut for public health services it is usually these clinics that are the first to bear the brunt. As a direct and consequential result the number of STD cases-specifically Chlamydia –increases as the overall population is denied treatment.
Chlamydia infections were more prevalent in individuals who not only sexually active but also had multiple partners. The Centers for Disease Control estimates the number of individuals with Chlamydia that have more than one sexual partner is roughly 3.2%. Contrast that with only 1.4% of individuals in monogamous relationships who tested positive for Chlamydia. Adding to this is less than half of all sexually active younger women getting tested the future for combating this specific STD is enough to give any public health official pause.
So why should individuals be tested regularly? The only way Chlamydia and other STDs are going to be effectively dealt with is if the public is made aware of their severe long term consequences. With greater knowledge comes greater preventative measures which can greatly reduce the incidence levels of Chlamydia. As mentioned at the outset of this article, Chlamydia can cause several severe adverse health reactions-the main one being infertility. How does Chlamydia cause infertility?
Chlamydia can invade the female reproductive system and causes infection. As a consequential result, scar tissues can accumulate and thereby causing a fertilized egg to implant itself in the fallopian tube wall or the embryo will miscarry. Accompanying this would be severe abdominal pain and bleeding. Furthermore, once a female experiences an ectopic pregnancy due to Chlamydia she is at a higher risk of developing more ectopic pregnancies in the future and runs a substantial risk of being unable to deliver a child. Females are not the only ones that can be subjected to infertility. Men have just as much risk of becoming infertile if Chlamydia is left untreated than women. Although the science is still being examined, many physicians and health care professionals attribute Chlamydia’s ability to interfere with sperm motility as the leading theory behind the association of Chlamydia with male infertility.
Chlamydia can also invade the male testes and lead to sterility. In the United States, Chlamydia causes approximately 250,000 sterility cases each year. Additionally, Chlamydia has been linked to a rare but potentially devastating form of reactive arthritis in young men. Reiter’s syndrome is a debilitating disease usually caused by a bacterial infection in the urinary, gastrointestinal or testicular tract. According to the CDC 15,000 young men between the ages of 15-24 will be impacted by Reiter’s syndrome and this disease will permanently affect another 5,000. Reiter’s syndrome causes intense inflammation and arthritis in the knees, joints and spine. Treatment of Reiter’s syndrome involves a simple course of antibiotics combined with anti-inflammatory drugs.
The nature of Chlamydia is one of silence. Most individuals in contemporary society are living their daily lives unaware this bacteria is multiplying within them. The need for enhanced public education, awareness and testing are imperative if any progress is going to be made on reducing the levels Chlamydia is currently at within the United States. Governmental organization, state organizations and other public health organizations must make educating young adults on the nature of STD’s, their transmission and their long term consequences is vital to the success of any STD program.