Chlamydia is the most common and underreported sexually transmitted disease at Tech, however reported cases are not increasing compared to previous years. “Over the past 30 years, [reported cases of chlamydia] remained virtually the same,” Randy Tompkins, supervisor for the J.J. Oakley Campus Health Services, said. “There were some periods where it’s spiked, but it’s remained pretty consistent.”
Over 1 million cases of chlamydia are reported each year in the U.S. with numerous more going unreported, according to the American Social Health Association. In 2006, the national Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated 2,291,000 non-institutionalized Americans had the disease.
Last year, Putnam County recorded 259 cases, while Tennessee had 27,988.
“On campus, the disease is more common with men,” Tompkins said.
In 2006, Adelbert James, a senior associate in the department of gynecology and obstetrics at Emory University School of Medicine, released a study that found college freshmen were 70 percent more likely to acquire chlamydia. In addition, the report found that 13 percent of freshmen and 9.7 of the rest of the student body carried the disease.
Nicknamed the “Silent STD,” chlamydia can infect a person with few or no symptoms. Due to the nature of the disease and its symptoms, it is nearly impossible to tally an accurate number of cases.
“Men are more apt to show the symptoms,” Tompkins said, elaborating on why more men have confirmed cases of chlamydia. “The symptoms are usually vague or nonexistent.”
When symptoms do exist, they include a burning sensation when urinating, a burning sensation around the genitals and an abnormal discharge from the genitals. Women are susceptible to additional symptoms including lower abdominal pain, nausea, fever, pain during intercourse, or bleeding.
Complications from chlamydia are more common and serious for women. In women, the infection can spread to the uterus or fallopian tubes, leading to pelvic inflammatory disease. PID can cause permanent damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus. Also, women with chlamydia are five times more likely to contract HIV, according to the CDC.
“Chlamydia can lead to infertility,” Tompkins added, referring to men and women. “It contributes to tubal pregnancies which can be life threatening.”
The disease can be diagnosed through simple tests, which are available at Tech.
The CDC recommends yearly tests, especially for sexually active women under the age of 25.
“We can do the test on campus and it’s free to students,” Tompkins said. “Also, the tests are minimally invasive.”
Chlamydia is treated with antibiotics, ranging from a single dose of azithromycin or a week-long treatment with doxycycline.
A few simple steps can lead to the prevention of the disease.
“Limit the number of sexual partners and always use condoms,” Tompkins said. “There are a lot of parties involving alcohol which causes people to lose their common sense.
“It’s smart to remain sober or have someone else remain sober.”
The CDC and ASHA Web sites offer more tips for prevention and diagnosing chlamydia