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March 1997

Chlamydia Screening and Treatment Programs for Young Women

Regional programs to screen and treat young women for chlamydia are yielding signs of success in reducing the burden of one of the most common and serious sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). Today's CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report documents that chlamydia screening and treatment programs in the mid-Atlantic (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia) and mountain (Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming) regions have contributed to a 1631% decline in positive tests for chlamydia among women under 20 since the programs began in 1994.


These findings reinforce those of the initial chlamydia screening and treatment demonstration project launched in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska), which documented a 65% decreased from 1988 to 1995.


Across the United States during 1995, more cases of chlamydia were reported to CDC than any other infectious disease (477,638). Because chlamydia often has no symptoms, and screening is limited, the vast majority of cases are not yet diagnosed, treated, and reported. Researchers estimate that there may be up to four million cases of chlamydia in the U.S. each year, with as many as half occurring among 1519 year old women.

Screening for chlamydia is critical because 75% of women and 50% of men with chlamydia have no symptoms, or symptoms that are so mild they do not seek care. If left untreated in women, chlamydia can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and potentially fatal tubal pregnancy. Chlamydia is also common among young men, who are rarely offered screening.


Based on CDC estimates, there may be more than three and a half million cases of chlamydia going undiagnosed and unreported each year.


The annual cost of chlamydia complications in women is more than $2 billion. The CDC projects that national screening for chlamydia would cost $175 million -- a savings of $12 for every dollar spent on prevention. These calculations do not include indirect consequences of chlamydia such as increased risk of HIV infection.

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