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STDs rife among US teens

18th March 2008

One in four teenaged girls in the United States has at least one common sexually transmitted infection, according to a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

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CDC said 26% of teen girls were infected with one or more of human papillomavirus, chlamydia, herpes simplex virus or trichomoniasis.

The study is based on data from a nationwide health and nutrition survey carried out from 2003 to 2004, and is the first to look at combined national statistics for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) among girls and young women.

CDC researchers analysed data from 838 young women aged 14 to 19 taking part in the survey who were tested for HPV, chlamydia, herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection, and trichomoniasis.

They found that 26% of participants had at least one STD, leading them to extrapolate a figure of 3.2 million adolescent women nationwide.

However, they pointed out that the analysis did not include data for syphilis, HIV or gonorrhoea, and the real figure could be much higher for young females with a sexually transmitted infection.

The most common infection found was a strain of HPV associated with cervical cancer and genital warts. This was found in 18.3% of participants.

Chlamydia infections were the second most common, in 3.9% of adolescent girls, with trichomoniasis found in 2.5% of participants and HSV-2 in 1.9%.

African American teenage girls had a prevalence rate for all tested infections of 48%, while prevalence levels were about 20% among both whites and Mexican Americans.

Of the girls and young women in the study who reported ever having been sexually active, 40% had at least one infection.

The authors said female adolescents were at a very high risk for HPV, some strains of which can go on to cause cervical cancer. They pointed to the fact that a vaccine against HPV types 16 and 18, which are associated with 70% of cervical cancers, and types 6 and 11 that cause almost all genital warts was now recommended for girls aged 11 and 12.

Chlamydia screening was also a key priority because prompt diagnosis and treatment avoids more serious problems like pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility. CDC recommends that all sexually active women aged 25 and under be screened for chlamydia annually.

CDC experts said the results demonstrated the significant health risk STDs pose to millions of young women in the United States every year.

 

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