Incidence of STDs, especially chlamydia, on rise in region

by Symptom Advice on September 12, 2011

Chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause infertility, is steadily rising in Los Angeles County and in the South Bay, according to figures released Tuesday.

County figures show there were 44,648 cases of chlamydia diagnosed in 2010, accounting for 78 percent of all STDs reported to the Department of Public Health, which publishes an annual report on the prevalence of these diseases.

In the Torrance health district, 1,383 cases of chlamydia were found last year, or 293 cases for every 100,000 residents – a 25 percent rise over 2006. In the Harbor Area (excluding Long Beach), there were 230 cases in 2006 compared to 332 last year, a 44 percent increase.

The group most susceptible to all types of STDs tracked by the county – chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis and pelvic inflammatory disease – are young, black or Latino females. Two-thirds of all those diagnosed with chlamydia were black or Latino and female, and 80 percent were under the age of 29.

“This should be a wake-up call for all of us,” said Serena Josel, director of public affairs for Planned Parenthood Los Angeles, which runs a health center in Lawndale. “This should be cause to take a look at how we’re getting accurate information out there to young people.”

The county operates several public education programs, along with other community health groups. Parents in particular need to be in the loop, encouraging their children to get tested, Josel said.

The South region of the county, which includes Hawthorne and Gardena, had by far the highest rates of all STDs. Figures show more than 10,000 cases of chlamydia were diagnosed in 2010, about a quarter of all county cases.

Chlamydia is sometimes referred to as the “silent disease” because it can go undetected for years. Symptoms are usually mild or completely absent, particularly in men.

The disease is spread through sexual contact, including anal and oral, and can be easily passed among unknowing partners, health officials say.

If left untreated, chlamydia can cause infections in the uterus and fallopian tubes and lead to infertility and potentially fatal ectopic pregnancies. the disease also makes one more susceptible to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Efforts to improve the rate of STD testing may be a factor in the increased rates, health officials said. In 2009, the county launched a mail-in testing program for chlamydia and gonorrhea that allows people to receive tests in the mail and send them to the county.

The results are made available online or by phone about a week later, and resources for treatment are accessible online. the campaign targeted young women in particular.

The county has seen the rate of gonorrhea decline, but has yet to make headway with other diseases. In the South Bay, there were 1,351 cases of gonorrhea in 2006, compared to 1,047 in 2010, a 29 percent decline. Roughly two-thirds of the local cases were discovered in the Inglewood health district, figures show.

Across the county, there were about 9,500 cases of gonorrhea, split about evenly among men and women. more than 6,000 of those diagnosed were black or Latino.

Symptoms of gonorrhea can also be mild or nonexistent, but the bacterial disease can lead to infertility in both men and women.

Young people who are sexually active should be tested about once a year or more, depending on their number of partners, health officials said. most STDs are treatable with antibiotics.

Find out more

For more information on the county Department of Public Health report on sexually transmitted diseases, visit For information on STD testing, call 1-800-758-0880.

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