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What should I do if I’ve been exposed to chlamydia?

What should I do if I’ve been exposed to chlamydia?

Updated on:
July 12, 2021

What are the risks of getting chlamydia?

The rate of transmission from one sexual encounter per sex act with a chlamydia-positive individual is approx. 4.5 %, but this rate is slightly higher for receptive sex (receving vaginal or anal sex).

Once infected, an individual’s risk of reinfection within 90 days increases by 16 times, as it is likely someone in their sexual network is positive and untreated.

Almost half of all men who have sex with men who are re-infected with chlamydia within 90 days of initial infection are due to contact with a previous sexual partner or member of the same sexual network.

Potential symptoms for chlamydia

Although many people may be asymptomatic and not experience any signs of infection, those that do have symptoms typically experience pain or burning when urinating and/or discharge from the penis or vagina.

Only approx. 10% of penis infections show symptoms, while about 5-30% of vaginal infections will develop symptoms.

For an in-depth view of all the potential symptoms associated with chlamydia, please look at our article about chlamydia symptoms.

Get tested for chlamydia.

The most common method of testing for chlamydia involves collecting a urine sample in combination with collecting swabs of the affected area(s). The most thorough process of screening involves urine collection along with throat swabs, rectal swabs, and genital swabs.

The genital swabs will collect a sample from the urethral opening of the penis or the cervical opening in the vagina.

Urine analysis alone can sometimes miss infections if swabbing is not also done. Throat and rectal infections can be overlooked, predominantly when asymptomatic.

How urgent is a post-exposure treatment for chlamydia?

Post-exposure treatment for chlamydia should be done as soon as possible after diagnosis or exposure. Be sure to let your healthcare provider know that you may have had (or did have) exposure to chlamydia or if you want to get tested for STIs.

While there is no specific deadline to get treated, the longer chlamydia remains in your body, the greater you risk complications, including long-term, serious damage. Though these complications may not be common, it's important to get tested and treated as soon as possible.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Not getting treated for chlamydia means you'll transmit chlamydia to sexual partners and increase your likelihood of long-term damage to your body. This can lead to pain and infertility in both men and women.

Can I have sex if I’ve been exposed to chlamydia?

After exposure to chlamydia, you should abstain from sexual activity, get tested, and may be empiriceally treated (i.e. based on an educated guess of potential transmission), as advised by your healthcare provider.

Do I need to tell my partner(s)?

In Canada, chlamydia is a reportable infection, meaning that the healthcare provider or lab will notify public health authorities after a diagnosis. You are not in any trouble. This reporting is strictly medical and allows for tracking, statistics, and prevention of STIs.

If you’re diagnosed with chlamydia, your healthcare provider will ask that you contact your past sexual partners from the last 60 days before you were tested or had any symptoms.

If you prefer not to contact your sexual partners, a public health nurse will contact them to get tested and treated for chlamydia. Notified partners are recommended to get treatment even before their test results are completed.

To maintain discretion and anonymity, the nurse will not use your name when contacting your partners.

How do I tell my partner(s)?

When contacting previous sexual partners about chlamydia, it's important to be direct and honest. Let them know that you contracted chlamydia and when it was diagnosed. Encourage them to seek testing and treatment, and remind them that most people are asymptomatic.

Although it may be an uncomfortable conversation, notifying your partners is the best way to protect them and others from transmitting chlamydia. Although there’s a lot of social stigmas associated with STIs, they can be a regular part of being sexually active; there’s nothing to be embarrassed about.

Sources:

  • https://stdcenterny.com/articles/std-risk-with-one-time-heterosexual-encounter.html#chlamydia
  • https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsif.2011.0131
Reviewed by:
Dr. Caley Shukalek

Caley is passionate about evidence-based, patient-centred care, including telemedicine that can provide high quality care from wherever a patient may choose.

He helped create Alberta's PrEP guidelines and works as a specialist in General Internal Medicine with additional training in sexual health, including HIV and sexually transmitted infections.

He holds an Masters of Public Health from Johns Hopkins University, an MD from the University of Calgary and an MSc from the University of Alberta.