Summary: Chlamydia and Gonorrhea Rates Dramatically Increasing in the United States

More than one million new cases of Chlamydia, and over 350,000 new cases of gonorrhea, were reported in the United States in 2006.

  • According to a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), sexually transmitted diseases remain a major public health challenge in the United States. More than one million (1,030,911) new cases of Chlamydia were reported in the United States in 2006. This is the most ever reported for a sexually transmitted disease, according to federal health officials. The CDC estimates that about 19 million new infections occur each year and about half of them are in young people aged 15 to 24. In 2006, the medical care for these patients reportedly cost nearly $15 billion in the United States alone. According to the government, although Chlamydia is the most commonly reported infectious disease in the United States, with 348 reported cases for every 100,000 people; scientific evidence suggests that the true tally is actually closer to 2.8 million new cases each year due to dramatic underreporting. Chlamydia can cause several health consequences for women, including pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. Complications from Chlamydia among men are relatively uncommon, but may include epididymitis and urethritis, which can cause pain, fever, and in rare cases, sterility. In addition, the report shows that gonorrhea is also on the rise, due partly to growing resistance to antibiotics. Like Chlamydia, gonorrhea is substantially under-reported and under-diagnosed, and approximately twice as many new infections are estimated to occur each year as are reported. While gonorrhea can be cured, untreated cases can lead to serious health problems. Among women, gonorrhea is a major cause of PID, which can lead to chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy, and infertility. In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful infection in the tissue surrounding the testicles that can result in infertility. The government tracks levels of Chlamydia, syphilis, and gonorrhea in order to examine overall trends. Some widespread infections, among them being those that cause genital warts and genital herpes, are not reported at all.1

1Trends in Reportable Sexually Transmitted Diseases in the United States, 2006, November 2007, pp. 1-7.

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