New Orleans -- The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s most recent report on sexually transmitted diseases shows Louisiana with 11,396 reported cases of gonorrhea and 18,451 reported cases of chlamydia during 2002. This ranks the state first and fourth, respectively, for the rates of these two sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, Louisiana’s syphilis rate ranked eighth among states.
The report also ranked New Orleans seventh for chlamydia rates and eighth for gonorrhea rates among selected cities with populations greater than 200,000 people.
“These high rates of STDs in Louisiana demonstrate that we must commit the necessary resources and public health strategies to address this problem,” said LDH Secretary David Hood. “This includes strategies that prevent the spread of disease, strategies that target those people who are most at risk and strategies that get people in for treatment as early as possible.”
In 2002, chlamydia was the most common sexually transmitted disease, affecting 834,555 Americans. It is caused by the Chlamydia trachomatis bacterium and, left untreated, can damage a woman’s reproductive organs. Because symptoms of chlamydia are mild or absent, serious complications that cause irreversible damage, including infertility, can occur “silently” before a woman ever recognizes a problem.
Gonorrhea is caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a bacterium that can grow and multiply easily in mucous membranes of the body. Gonorrhea bacteria can grow in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract, including the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women, and in the urethra in women and men. The bacteria also can grow in the mouth, throat and anus.
The most reliable ways to avoid becoming infected with or transmitting an STD are:
· Abstain from sexual intercourse (oral, vaginal or anal), except in a long-term, mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected partner.
· Abstain from sharing needles and/or syringes for non-prescription drugs.
· Latex condoms, when used consistently and correctly, can reduce the risk of transmission of gonorrhea and chlamydia.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea infections occur frequently among sexually active adolescents and young adults. Infections without symptoms (asymptomatic) are common. Public health experts recommend that sexually active young persons be screened for chlamydia infection at least annually, even if symptoms are not present.
The most serious consequences of chlamydia infection are in women and include pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. Regular screening and treatment of cervical infection can reduce the likelihood of these complications.
Patients often are co-infected with N. gonorrhoeae and C. trachomatis. Because of this, it is recommended that patients treated for gonococcal infections also should be treated for C. trachomatis. Treating infected patients also prevents transmission to sex partners or to infants during birth by infected mothers. Treatment of sex partners of infected persons is extremely important to reduce rates of re-infection as well.
Public health authorities urge that all at-risk people request testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia annually. In Louisiana, all public health clinics and many private physicians offer screening for chlamydia and gonorrhea infections in asymptomatic people.
According to Dr. Jimmy Guidry, state health officer, although STDs do seem to be more prevalent in the southern and southwestern states than elsewhere, the reasons for Louisiana’s high rates are not entirely known.
“Although we do not know all of the reasons for our high rate, we believe that our comprehensive screening process allows us to better identify theses STDs thus raising our rate above states that aren’t as aggressive in looking for these diseases,” Guidry said. “More importantly, when an STD is discovered through a screening, we can begin treatments sooner.”
Anyone who believes that he might have a STD can call his physician or local public health clinic for an evaluation. A list of parish health units and phone numbers can be found athttp://www.oph.dhh.state.la.us/ophregions/index.html.