Chlamydia is a common sexually communicable infection in many countries. The WHO (2016) estimates that there are 131 million new chlamydia infections every year, making the disease second in terms of new infections after trichomoniasis. However, the prevalence rates in developing nations are difficult to estimate due to several socio-cultural factors and the asymptomatic nature of the disease. According to the Australian Government Health Department (2014), chlamydia is the most common sexually transmissible disease in the country. The statistics from the health department indicate that at least 87,000 cases are reported each year, translating to 355 cases per a population of 100,000 people. These statistics represent a threefold increase of the reported cases in 2001.Such figures demonstrate that the disease remains one of the major health challenges in the Austrian society. In this paper, causes and symptoms, transmission, the disease trends, demographic aspects of the disease, individual and government interventions, and the latest research on treatment methods will be explored.
Causes, Symptoms, Body Conditions, and Effects
Chlamydia is caused by a parasitic bacterium known as chlamydia Trachomatis that infects both men and women (WHO, 2014).The disease can cause detrimental and permanent damage to the infected organs if left untreated. According to Land, Van Bergen, Morre, and Postma (2010), chlamydia is transmitted from one person to the next through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with the infected persons. Besides, pregnant mothers can pass chlamydia bacterium to the infants- studies have shown that about 50% of the infants born through vaginal delivery get the infection from their mothers. This is a result of the fluidal exchange at the time of birth.
Since the disease is a sexually communicable condition, it affects most sex and reproductive parts of the body such as the rectum for the persons involved in anal sex, urethra or cervix, fallopian tubes, and the eyes for the case of newborns of the body (ACOG, 2015).In view of the mentioned parts, if left untreated, the disease can spread to other parts of the body and cause irreversible damage to vital body organs.
The spread to other parts of the body or the damage to the infected organs can be as result of the asymptomatic nature of the disease or lack of treatment for the infections. Guy et al (2011) note that even when the symptoms are invisible, the disease can inflict extensive damage to the reproductive systems of the infected persons. At least 75% of women and 90% of men do not exhibit chlamydia symptoms. If one develops such symptoms, they may not be visible until after several days after having unprotected sex with the infected persons (CDC, 2014).This shows that damage may be done to the reproductive organs as a result of the long incubation period or non-visibility of the symptoms.
A change in vaginal discharges is a common manifestation of chlamydia infections in women. Often, the discharges have a yellow or milky white appearance (CDC, 2014).The unusual vaginal discharges are as a result of bacterial infections of the uterus. WHO (2014) documents that chlamydia can also attack the urethra of women, resulting in the infection of the urinary tract. The infection manifests itself in the form of pain (usually a burning sensation) during urination as well as desperate urges to pass urine. Such infections may lead to long-term reproductive consequences if left untreated.
Although the risk of developing complications from the infection of the lower parts of the genital tract is low, the persistence of such infections may result in the development of Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (Land, Van Bergen, Morre, & Postma, 2010).Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) is a common manifestation of the Chlamydia infections in women. However, the disease may occur as a result of bowel infection or surgical procedures such as curette, abortion or insertion of an intrauterine device (Victoria State Government, 2012). Statistics with Victoria State Government indicate that at least 10,000 women receive treatment for PID in hospitals and others get the services through outpatient mechanisms.
PID is caused by a bacterial infection of the endometrium and the fallopian tubes as a result of the uncontrolled movement of the chlamydia microbes from the vagina or cervix (CDC, 2014).It should be noted that the movement occurs if there is no timely treatment and the problem is compounded by the asymptomatic nature of the infections which often leads to late diagnosis. The symptoms of PID include pain during sexual intercourse, lower back pain, menstrual disturbances, and fever, among others (World Health Organization, 2014).
PID and Infertility
A body of research has shown that 10% of women infected with PID become infertile. The infertility is caused by the scarring and blockage of the fallopian tubes of the infected women (ACOG, 2015).As a result, fertilized eggs do not move down to the uterus for embryonic development or embryonic growth occurs in the fallopian tubes which can be fatal if urgent surgery is not conducted to remove the ectopic growth. However, studies have demonstrated that the risks of chlamydia infections transitioning to PID after lower genital tract infections are low. Land et al. (2010) found that, despite the use of low-quality Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs), the risk of PID test-positive women developing tubal infertility oscillates between 0 to 6 percent. These findings offer an opportunity to yield significant outcomes in minimizing the PID transition cases in women.
Detection of symptoms of chlamydia in men can be more challenging than in the cases of women. This is due to the nature of symptom manifestation or gender-specific reactions to the infection (Victoria State Government, 2012). Chlamydia-infected men may exhibit symptoms such as pain when urinating, unusual discharge from the tip of the penis, itching of the urethra, and testicle pain and swellings (UKs National Health Service, 2015).As in the case of women, the infection may cause infertility due to its disruption of sperms production.
Demographic Conditions of Chlamydia in Australia
Over the last decade, the notification rate for chlamydia in the Australian healthcare system has increased significantly. The Australian Government Department of Health (2014) attributes such increase to the rising infection rates and the willingness of more people seeking medical examinations. Demographic variations regarding the disease can be identified in age, gender, region, and ethnicity, among other demographic characteristics.
Although there are several similarities concerning the effects of chlamydia on men and women, studies show variations regarding its prevalence in Australian populations. Research has found that chlamydia diagnosis and prevalence in women is slightly higher than that of men. In 2011,46,636 women aged 15 years and above were diagnosed with the infection whereas 33,197 men of the same age group were diagnosed with the infection (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2012), According to Australian Bureau of Statistics, the prevalence rate in women stands at 4.4% while that of men is 3.7%. These variations can be attributed to the higher control that men have regarding the use of condoms and other safe-sex methods as well as the higher chance that women would seek treatment due to the different manifestation of the condition in both sexes. Besides, notifications tests for women are more likely to recorded from screenings while most of the mens notifications are captured as a result of symptoms (Stephens, O'Sullivan, Coleman, & Shaw, 2010).However, most cases of chlamydia are asymptomatic creating the potential for underreporting. Since most studies have been conducted on heterosexual Austrians, little information is available in regards to the trends in same-sex persons (Ward, 2014) and, thus, requires more investigation to aid treatment and screening programs for these individuals.
The incidence of chlamydia in Australian populations also varies with age. The Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012) documents that diagnosis of 15-29-year-olds accounts for 80% of the chlamydia notification cases in the country. According to the national bureau, the prevalence rate is highest in men aged between 20 and 24 years and women of between 16 and 19 years. Recent studies show similar trends of prevalence among young people. A cross-sectional survey conducted by Yeung et al. (2014) reveals that prevalence in 16-19 olds attending rural and regional primary care services is similar among men and women. These trends are indicative of the risk exposures Australians of the highlighted age bracket face and can be useful in designing age-specific interventions that would reduce chlamydia infection. Over the recent years, however, Lewis (2015) notes that despite the small numbers of infections among 30-49-year-olds, the age bracket has recorded a significant increase in STIs.
Region and Ethnicity
Epidemiological studies and institutional surveys show similar trends in most of the countrys regions. Guy et al. (2011) findings show that the number of notifications among individuals aged between 15 and 29 increased by 336% since 2001 in New South Wales. Yet a low number of young people are being tested for the infection in this region. This shows that the prevalence could be higher than the current notification rates. In Tasmania, Guy et al. (2012) found that persons aged 15-24 represented the age group with the highest infection rates. These trends are reflected in the rest of the regions of the country. However, variations exist in terms of infections among indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.
Although there is a general increase in the notifications across all segments of the population, studies of Guy et al. (2012) and Ward (2014) reveal that infection notification rates are higher among indigenous populations. Notably, the notification rates among the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander is higher compared to Australian-born persons. The notified cases also reflect a higher incidence and prevalence among men and women aged between 16 and 29 years. However, Kong and Ward (2015) note that the higher notifications tend to be localized and cannot be interpreted as a reflection of the national patterns of the groups under investigation. The discussed variations can be attributed to access to medical interventions and willingness of the public to seek screening services. This prevalence rate highlights the need for targeted interventions that target Austrians living in rural and remote areas.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Chlamydia infections in men and women can be diagnosed by conducting first-catch urine tests or swab specimens from the vagina respectively (Victoria State Government, 2012).The specimens so obtained are then subjected to laboratory tests to ascertain the presence of the infections. For instance, the microscopic presence of white blood cells on vaginal secretions should be indicative of the chlamydia infections (ACOG, 2015). It should be noted that procedures such as examination of the cervix, temperature levels, and cervical discharges are done as part of the investigations.
Not all patients that can be treated based on the measures highlighted in the preceding discussions. Patients with the following characteristics should be considered for admission and therapy;
Patients with inadequate clinical response to oral antimicrobial therapy
Patients that are unable to tolerate outpatient oral regimen
Patients with ovarian infections
Patients are immune-deficient or infected with any other prominent infections and diseases (Australian Government, Health Department, 2014).
However, uncomplicated infections can be treated throug...
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