With STDs, numbers can be deceptive

In 2002, the United States reported 834,555 chlamydia infections to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. However, it is estimated that nearly 3 million people were infected that year. Also, 351,852 cases of gonorrhea were reported. But it is estimated 600,000 people are infected each year. So why would the numbers of reported cases be significantly smaller? According to Johnny El-Rady, a USF instructor in the Biology Department, most individuals don’t know they have an infection.

“For every one person reported, about three to four people are not,” El-Rady said. “They’re asymptomatic.”

If symptoms do occur, one of the most common is pain while urinating. El-Rady said this is because the infection affects the urethra. Also, there may be a milky or pus-like discharge from the genitals. If left untreated, chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to sterility, abdominal pain, fever and tubal pregnancy, which will cause the fetus’ death.

In addition, chlamydia–The Clam,” or the “Gooey stuff” and gonorrhea–the “clap” or the “drip”–can also lead to pelvic inflammatory disease. PID is an inflammation of the pelvic area and can spread through the fallopian tubes and the uterus.

“Symptoms may include vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, bleeding between periods, heavier than usual periods, fever, nausea and vomiting,” El-Rady said.

Both men and women can contract infections from vaginal, anal and oral sex. However, El-Rady said women are more prone to infections than men. Also, females taking birth control are more likely to be infected with gonorrhea because contraceptives change the vaginal environment, making it easier for the infection to get a foothold, El-Rady said.

A vast majority of infections come from unprotected sex. However, they can be transmitted from mother to child during birth. It is also possible to have both chlamydia and gonorrhea at the same time. When infected, it is easy to spread the infections to other parts of the body. If a person touches an infected area and then touches another area of their body such as their eyes, mouth or rectum, the infection can spread.

While some STDs cannot be cured, chlamydia and gonorrhea can be cured with antibiotics because they are bacterial infections. To reduce the risk of getting any STD, get tested regularly. It is recommended people age 25 and above who are sexually active be tested at least once a year.

As always, remember that condoms can seriously reduce the risk of some but not all STDs.

Compiled by Bridgette Martin