CHLAMYDIA: Counties Push for More Testing after Increase in Cases
The "silent venereal disease," chlamydia, may be on the rise in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties in California, though better reporting may also account for a three-year "surge" in cases, the Riverside Press-Enterprise reports. With a 41% and 58% increase in the number of chlamydia cases reported in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties, respectively, between 1996 and 1999, public health officials from both counties are urging sexually active residents to be tested. "This is kind of a young person's disease. If you are sexually active or have more than one partner, it's not unreasonable to test yourself for chlamydia," Dr. Gary Feldman, public health director for Riverside County, said. Treatable with a single dose of antibiotics, the disease often displays no symptoms; but when left untreated in women it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and tubal pregnancy. Reports of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis in San Bernardino County are up, although the number of AIDS cases has dropped this year. County epidemiologist Kim Woods said, "With less folks dying of HIV at the moment, people are less likely to practice safer sex." California Department of Health Services epidemiologist Heidi Bauer attributes the rise in cases to increased testing and a heightened awareness among health professionals. She added that women are especially at risk for chlamydia because they "are more vulnerable to the bacteria." Blacks, Latinos, and teenagers who are sexually active reported the highest rates of chlamydia, prompting the county health department to produce 67 presentations aimed at "at-risk" residents. With $55,658 in funding from the California Health Department, San Bernardino County is running advertisements and sponsoring an awareness campaign. Called CAPP, Chlamydia Awareness and Prevention Project, the county will distribute key chains, hats and magnets bearing the acronym. In addition, billboards and bus ads will display a young couple who say, "You can have it all! Chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, HIV -- Get tested." Riverside County has established a "chlamydia coalition" with $30,000 it received from the state. Riverside also will air radio ads encouraging residents to get tested, a procedure consisting of "a simple urine sample." Still, fewer than half of the sexually active women under 25 get tested yearly. Bauer said that even if just 3% have chlamydia, "hundreds of thousands of cases" are being overlooked (Seaton, Riverside Press-Enterprise, 9/25).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.