Science / Medicine : Chlamydia Becoming a Silent Epidemic

<i> Times staff writer Anne C. Roark reports from San Francisco at the American Academy of Pediatrics annual meeting</i>

A silent epidemic, one that often goes undetected and untreated, is rendering adolescent girls in America sterile, according to Mary Ann Shafer, associate professor of pediatrics at UC San Francisco.

The disease is known as chlamydia and it is now thought to be the most common sexually transmitted disease among adolescents, occuring in 8% to 25% of sexually active girls and 9% of sexually active boys. In females, the painless pelvic inflammation can so damage the Fallopian tubes that it makes a girl a high risk for ectopic pregnancy and, in many cases, infertility in later life, Shafer said.

Because chlamydia now seems to be on the rise among youths, Shafer has urged pediatricians to start performing routine pelvic exams on adolescent girls and to give urine tests to boys who might be carriers of the infection.