Health Watch: Teenagers & STD’s

Dr. Brett Parkinson with Mountain Medical reviews what parents can learn from this new information.


Last Tuesday, Dr. Sara Forhan of the Center for Disease Control (CDC), announced the results of a recent study which demonstrated that 26% of young women between the ages of 14 and 19–or approximately 3.2 million girls–is infected with at least one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases. Dr. Forhnan, who led the research team, also indicated that whereas only 20 percent of white and Mexican-American girls were infected, nearly half (48%) of African-American teenage girls had a least one sexually transmitted infection (STI). The researcher’s conclusions were based on analysis of the 2003-2004 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, a continuous annual research project which examines a representative sampling of U.S. households in an effort to collect data on a wide range of health issues. From that survey, 838 female adolescents (aged 14-19) were randomly selected for testing. The young women were tested for the following infections: Human Papillomavirus (HPv), Chlamydia, herpes simplex virus type (HSV-2) and Trichomoniasis. Syphilis, HIV and gonorrhea were not included in the analysis.


• The most common STI was HPV (18%), followed by Chlamydia (3.9%), trichomoniasis (2.5%) and HSV-2 (1.9%).

• The highest prevalence was found among African-American teens (48%). This was thought to be due to a lack of access to health care and education in that population.

• 15% of the girls had more than one disease.

• Half of the teenage girls in the study reported having had sex. Among that group, the prevalence of infection was 40%.

• Girls reporting only one lifetime partner, had a 20.4% infection rate; those with three or more partners, 50%.

It is important that young women, and men for that matter, be educated about these all-too-common sexually transmitted infections. Parents should be informed as well, as many of these infections can be prevented and treated. Education is key.


• A virus that infects the skin and mucous membranes of the genitalia, anus and rectum.

• Can cause cervical cancer and genital warts.

• Most people with HPV do not develop symptoms or health problems, as the majority of infections resolve on their own.

• Condom use lowers risk of developing HPV and HPV-related diseases

• There is no treatment, but a healthy immune system usually fights off the infection on its own

• The Gardasil vaccine protects females from most of the subtypes that cause cervical cancer and genital warts. Recommended for 11 and 12 year-old girls, as well as for girls and women age 13 through 26 who have yet to be vaccinated or completed the series.


• Caused by a bacterium. Initially infects cervix and urethra; may later spread to uterus, fallopian tubes and/or rectum.

• Known as the “silent” SDI, as 75% of infected women and 50% of infected men have no symptoms.

• When present, symptoms include abnormal vaginal discharge, genital sores, bleeding between periods or burning sensation with urination

• Long-term complications include pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic pelvic pain, sterility and ectopic pregnancy (potentially fatal pregnancy outside of the uterus). Can also lead to premature delivery.

• Condoms can reduce risk.

• Easily treated and cured with antibiotics.

• Yearly screening for Chlamydia is recommended for all sexually active females age 25 and under.


• Caused by herpes simplex virus type 1 (HSV-1) or type 2 (HSV-2).

• Most individuals have few or minimal signs and symptoms.

• When present, signs initially include blisters on or around genitals or rectum. Blisters then break, resulting in tender ulcers that may take two to four weeks to heal. Subsequent outbreaks, though usually less severe than the first, can occur indefinitely after that.

• Can be infected by someone without a visible sore.

• Makes one more susceptible to HIV infection.

• Can lead to potentially fatal infections in babies. In infected women, cesarean delivery is usually performed.

• Condoms not always effective; areas not covered by condoms suseptible to infection.

• No cure. Antiviral medication can shorten and prevent outbreaks.


• Caused by a single-cell protozoan.

• Symptoms in women: yellow-green vaginal discharge with strong odor; pain with urination and intercourse; irritation and itching in genital area.

• Most men do not have symptoms.

• Increases susceptibility to HIV infection.

• Increases risk of low birth weight in pregnant women.

• Can be cured with prescription drugs.
It is important that parents have candid conversations with their teens about sex, and the unintended health-related consequences of sexual activity outside of a monogamous relationship where both partners are virgins. Many of these infections can be prevented, treated or cured. It must be stressed that several of the STIs can present without symptoms, leading young people to believe they are free of infection and thus not endangering their unsuspecting partners!



Mountain Medical Physician Specialists is a partnership of over 50 board-certified radiology and vascular professionals providing patients along the Northern Wasatch Front with the latest imaging and vascular care available. Mountain Medical professionals specialize in vascular surgery, vascular and interventional radiology, CT, neuroradiology, orthopedic imaging, MRI, women’s imaging, ultrasound, nuclear medicine and body imaging. For more information visit

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