I was surprised by recent recent findings from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey– one in four teenage girls (ages 14-19, chosen at random in the US) tested positive for some sort of sexually transmitted disease, most commonly HPV (human papilloma virus) (18%), followed by chlamydia (4%), trichomonas (2.5 %), and herpes (2%).
I asked Revolution Health expert, Dr. Iffath Hoskins, (Senior Vice President, Chairman and Residency Director in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Lutheran Medical Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.) what she thought of this news.
“This relatively high infection rate is cause for concern. We need to increase our education efforts so that teenagers are more aware of the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, especially since women’s reproductive futures are at stake. Chlamydia infections can substantially decrease fertility rates, long after the infection has been fully treated with antibiotics.
As far as the high HPV rates are concerned, I’m not surprised since previous research has estimated that 80-90% of adults have been infected with at least one of 80 subtypes of this very common virus. Only 6 of these 80 are known to predispose women towards cervical cancer. But the HPV vaccine can substantially reduce the risk for contracting those 6, so it’s important to vaccinate young girls against this virus.
No teenage girl should be walking around with chlamydia or trichomonas. They are treatable with antibiotics.”
The study also found racial differences between STD infection rates in teenage girls, with blacks being infected at twice the rate of white or Hispanic girls. The CDC is calling for educational outreach to at-risk groups, and the American Academy of Pediatrics supports confidential teen screening.
I hope that these staggering statistics act as a wake up call to health care providers who may not have thought to screen their teen patients for STDs. Apparently, these infections are more common than we realized.This post originally appeared on Dr. Val’s blog at RevolutionHealth.com.