Is Chlamydia Contagious?

  • Medical Author:
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

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Is chlamydia contagious?

Chlamydia is a contagious STD (sexually transmitted disease). Chlamydia bacteria cause the most common STD in United States. Approximately 3,000,000 women and men become infected every year. Chlamydia is most common among women and men under the age of 25. Chlamydia is caused by the gram-negative bacteria from the genus Chlamydia (C. trachomatis; there are several other species). The organisms are thought to have originated about 700 million years ago and coevolved with mammalian cells so that the genome of the organism could utilize the chemical reactions inside human cells.

What is the incubation period for chlamydia?

Unfortunately, the majority of men and women with chlamydia do not have symptoms. Therefore, they do not know they have the disease. The incubation period for chlamydia is quite variable and may range from days to months after the initial exposure. The average time from exposure to the development of symptoms is usually about one to three weeks after sexual contact with an infected person.

What are chlamydia symptoms and signs?

The signs and symptoms of chlamydia infections in women are usually irritation in the genital tract and pain with urination (cervicitis and urethritis). In men, chlamydia is characterized by pain with urination, urinary frequency, and urethral discharge (urethritis). Other symptoms may develop, such as rectal irritation (proctitis), eye infections, and infertility. Women can also develop chronic pelvic pain, salpingitis, and endometritis. Pregnant women infected with chlamydia can have ectopic pregnancies, preterm labor, preterm delivery, and their newborns can get conjunctivitis, otitis media, and pneumonia.

How is chlamydia transmitted?

Chlamydia is transmitted by sexual contact with the penis, vagina, anus and/or rectal area, and mouth of the infected individual. Occasionally, if the eyes are infected, ocular secretions may contain transmissible bacteria. The organisms are simply transmitted by contact, usually by direct physical contact. Chlamydia bacteria are easily spread. They spread from females to males and vice versa through sexual contact.

Chlamydia Treatment for Women

Chlamydia can be easily cured with antibiotic therapy. Antibiotics may be given as a single dose or a 7-day course. Women should abstain from sexual intercourse during the 7-day course of antibiotics or for 7 days after the single dose treatment to avoid spreading the infection to others.

How long is the contagious period for chlamydia?

Infection with chlamydia is relatively easy to cure with antibiotics. Treatment protocols for uncomplicated chlamydial infections include a single 1-gram dose of oral azithromycin (Zithromax, Zmax). Another treatment option is 100 mg of doxycycline (Vibramycin, Oracea, Adoxa, Atridox, Acticlate, Doryx) orally twice a day for seven days. During pregnancy, erythromycin (Eryc, Ery-Tab, E.E.S, EryPed, PCE) or amoxicillin (Amoxil, Trimox, Moxatag, Larotid) is often used. After beginning treatment, most physicians suggest that patients with uncomplicated chlamydial infections (cervicitis, urethritis, and/or proctitis) are no longer contagious after about seven days. Tests that detect chlamydia in the urine and in other secretions are available.

When should someone seek medical care for chlamydia?

The most urgent time to seek medical care for a chlamydial infection is when an individual is pregnant and has had recent sexual exposure to an infected individual and/or has developed early symptoms of a chlamydial infection. Additionally, if individuals are experiencing any symptoms of chlamydial infections, they should seek medical care quickly. Sexual partners should be notified if they have had recent contact with an infected individual.

Patients with gonorrhea (Neisseria gonorrhoeae, causative agent of gonorrhea) have a 30%-50% chance of being coinfected with chlamydia. However, the reverse is not true. Patients with chlamydial infections have a less than 1% chance of being coinfected with Neisseria gonorrhoeae.

REFERENCE:

CDC. Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet." Updated: Oct 04, 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia.htm >.

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Reviewed on 10/10/2017
References
REFERENCE:

CDC. Chlamydia - CDC Fact Sheet." Updated: Oct 04, 2017. <https://www.cdc.gov/std/chlamydia/stdfact-chlamydia.htm >.

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