SEATTLE — The known incidence of chlamydia rose 12 percent in Washington state last year, leading health officials to recommend that sexually active women under 25 be tested for the sexually transmitted disease at least once a year.
Nearly three-fourths of the reported cases were found in people 15 to 24 years old, said Katherine Gudgel, coordinator of the Washington state chlamydia screening project.
“This is a disease of young people,” Gudgel said.
The number of cases went from 14,935 in 2002 to 16,796 last year, an all-time high, according to an annual report of sexually transmitted diseases that was issued Monday. The overall incidence rate increased from 247 per 100,000 residents to 275 per 100,000, still below the last reported national rate of 296 per 100,000.
Among women 15 to 19 in the state, the chlamydia infection rate was 2,273 per 100,000 residents compared with 391 per 100,000 for men the same age.
Syphilis, a more severe venereal disease, also increased in Washington with 82 cases last year compared with 70 in 2002.
Chlamydia, the most commonly reported infectious disease nationwide, is curable with antibiotics but shows no symptoms in about 90 percent of the infected women and 60 percent of the infected men.
Symptoms in both sexes may include painful urination, pain in the lower abdominal area and pain and discharges in the genital area.
Left untreated it can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain and infertility in women, infertility in men and higher susceptibility to infection with HIV among both sexes.
In mailings last week to about 13,000 private doctors, the state Health Department asked them to test more patients for chlamydia, but Gudgel said women should not wait for doctors to raise the idea.
“If we can get women to understand how common this infection is and how silent it is … they will hopefully say, ‘I’m a young sexually active woman. I better ask my doctors to test me,”’ she said.
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