Chlamydia infections decline in region Federal screening effort cited for improvement

March 27, 1997|By knight-ridder news service

PHILADELPHIA - Federally funded screening programs are beginning to reduce the prevalence of chlamydia, the most common sexually transmitted disease in the United States and a major cause of female infertility, federal statistics show.

The Middle Atlantic region saw chlamydia infection decline by nearly a third among women under 20 between 1994 and 1996. The number of women who had the disease fell from 7.8 percent to 5.4 percent.

In Philadelphia, infection showed an even more dramatic decline of 40 percent during the same period. Infection fell from 5.6 percent to 4 percent among 50,000 women screened each year in sexually transmitted disease and family-planning clinics.

"The amount of disease in this region is going down," said Dorothy Mann, executive director of the Family Planning Council in Philadelphia.

"This is so wonderful because here is a public health problem - infertility - and we can do something about it," she said.

Chlamydia, a bacterial infection, can be easily diagnosed through a lab test, and can be cured with antibiotics. But because it has no early symptoms in 75 percent of women and 50 percent of men, most cases go undiagnosed until serious health problems develop.

An estimated 4 million people are infected annually in this country, but only about 500,000 are diagnosed.

Up to 40 percent of women with untreated chlamydia develop pelvic inflammatory disease, a primary cause of infertility and potentially fatal tubal pregnancy. When transmitted from a woman to her newborn, chlamydia can cause an eye infection called conjunctivitis, or pneumonia.

In 1988, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention launched a pilot screening and treatment project in the Pacific Northwest.

By 1995, that region saw a 65 percent decline in chlamydia infection.

In 1994, federally funded programs were expanded to the mid-Atlantic (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia) and the Rocky Mountain region. Infection among women under 20 in the mountain region has since declined by 16 percent.

Nationally, the program continues to grow; New Jersey was among states added to the program last summer.

Pub Date: 3/27/97

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.