MORE than 1000 Geelong region residents have been diagnosed with chlamydia in the past 12 months, the latest health department figures show.
But for every person acutely aware of the sexually transmitted disease, there are even more people with no symptoms whatsoever, the Geelong Advertiser said.
Barwon Health department of infectious diseases associate professor Eugene Athan said yesterday males sufferers had minimal or no symptoms. But they ran the risk of infecting female partners who, in the long run, could become infertile. Health Department figures showed that 1289 cases of chlamydia were reported in the Barwon South Western region during the past 12 months. In the City of Greater Geelong alone 714 cases have been reported in the past 12 months. Dr Athan said what had changed in recent years was that GPs are being encouraged to test for chlamydia, which was a simple urine test.
"As a result of that we are testing more, and so we are picking up more of the infection," he said.
"The problem with chlamydia is it's a bit of a silent disease. The majority of people don't have symptoms, and about a third have urethral symptoms such as a burning feeling or vaginal discharge."The problem is that in the longer term it can cause infertility in young women it's the most common cause of infertility in Australia."
Dr Athan said there was also a certain degree of unsafe sexual practices in the community, with people taking fewer precautions and putting themselves at risk.
"So if people are at risk through unsafe sexual activity, or just being sexually active, they should be tested," he said.
"It's a major problem for Victoria and it's reflected mainly in young people between the ages of 15 and 25."
Statewide, there have been 17,317 cases of chlamydia reported in the past 12 months. Dr Athan said the figures reflected the fact the infection had become endemic in the community, as opposed to a sudden epidemic. He said chlamydia was thought of in a different way to say the swine flu outbreak of two years ago because there was always a certain presence of it in the population.