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Chlamydia Communicable Disease Facts


Chlamydia is the most frequently reported communicable disease in the United States. Nationally, an estimated four million cases occur each year. In Saint Louis County, there were 2539 cases of chlamydia reported in 2001. About three-fourths of these cases occurred among persons younger than age 24.

What is chlamydia (kla-mid-ee-ya)?

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection that can infect the penis, vagina, cervix, anus, urethra, throat, or eye.

How is chlamydia spread?

Chlamydia is spread by oral, anal, and vaginal sexual contact. Chlamydia can also be spread from a mother to her infant at birth. In some cases, an infected person has spread the bacteria to their eyes from secretions on their genitals.

What are symptoms of chlamydia?

*Important: Up to 85% of women and 40% of men do NOT show symptoms of the infection.

Symptoms in women may include:

  • bleeding between menstrual periods
  • vaginal bleeding after intercourse
  • abdominal pain
  • painful intercourse
  • low-grade fever
  • painful urination
  • abnormal vaginal discharge

Men may have symptoms such as:

  • pus or watery or milky discharge from the penis
  • pain or burning feeling while urinating
  • swollen or tender testicles

How serious is chlamydia?

Chlamydia infection is very serious. It can cause chronic bladder infections, pelvic inflammatory disease (a condition that causes the pelvic cavity to become inflamed), ectopic pregnancy (a pregnancy outside the uterus), and permanent infertility. In men, chlamydia infects the urethra and can spread to the testicles, which can cause male infertility. Studies also show that chlamydia can lead to Reiter's syndrome, especially in young men. This involves eye infections, urethritis, and arthritis. These conditions can lead to permanent disability.

How is chlamydia diagnosed?

Usually, a swab is taken from the genital area. Newer tests allow the identification of chlamydia in urine samples. Talk to your health care provider about which test is best for you.

Is chlamydia curable and how do you cure it?

Yes, chlamydia is curable. Antibiotics are given to fight the infection. Typically, the body is completely rid of the infection within 10-14 days after all the antibiotics are taken. You can still spread chlamydia while you are taking medication.

Can you become immune to chlamydia?

No, a previous infection does not mean you cannot become infected with chlamydia again.

Can you have other sexually transmitted diseases at the same time?

Yes. It is very possible to be infected with other sexually transmitted diseases at the same time that you are infected with chlamydia.

Does the medicine for chlamydia treat other sexually transmitted diseases?

Do not assume that your chlamydia medication will cure other diseases. Different infections require different medications and dosages.

Where can I learn more information about chlamydia?

You can click on our Resources link. The following resources provide further information about chlamydia.

National STD and AIDS hotlines at 1-800-342-2437 or 1-800-227-8922. These hotlines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.