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Health & Sex

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Chlamydia Still #1 Sex Disease

Love Bug With a Bite

A Reservoir of Chlamydia continued...

It is young, sexually active women aged 25 and younger who are most at risk. These women, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force this year advised, should get chlamydia screening as a part of their routine healthcare.

Does screening work? Workowski points to the northwestern states of Oregon, Idaho, Washington, and Alaska.

"They had an initial prevalence rate of 13% [of women aged 15-24] in the late '80s, and now it is less than 5%," she says. "It is due to large-scale screening programs in family-planning clinics. These have proven very effective. Now we need funding to develop the information systems needed to monitor patients for reporting so that case reports go into an automated information system."

The task force also recommended chlamydia screening for pregnant women aged 25 and younger. However, it did not recommend routine screening for all asymptomatic men or for asymptomatic women older than 25 because there is not enough evidence that the benefits of such screening would justify the cost.

Chlamydia: A Bug With a Bite

Chlamydia is a type of bacteria called chlamydia trachomatis. It can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, and eye. It's sexually transmitted by either vaginal or anal intercourse. Condoms offer partial protection -- they are much, much better than nothing, and they do stop HIV -- but they don't always stop the chlamydia bug.

Unlike most other bacteria, chlamydia can't reproduce itself unless it gets inside human cells. The cells it likes the best are the type that line the urinary and genital tracts of both men and women. These cells, known as columnar epithelial cells, are supposed to keep germs out while allowing fluids to pass through. They are especially plentiful in the lining of the urethra and at the entrance to the cervix. It's here that the bug loves to bite.

Women may not notice the early symptoms of infection, but within five to 10 days of infection they may have bleeding between menstrual periods, painful urination or intercourse, vaginal bleeding after intercourse, low-grade fever, frequent urge to urinate, an inflamed cervix, abnormal vaginal discharge, and even a yellowish discharge from the cervix that may smell bad.

The bottom line? If you're a sexually active man, pay attention to your body. Get tested if you have any symptoms. If you're a sexually active woman 25 or younger, get tested every time you see the doctor.

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