Health Check: Infectious diseases in RI

The Centers for Disease Control reports an increasing number of infectious diseases in the country and in Southern New England. Many of them are sexually transmitted.

Dr. Philip Chan is an infectious diseases expert at The Miriam Hospital. His specialty is HIV research.

"We've made a lot of strides with HIV in Rhode Island in terms of preventing it, but the good news overall we've definitely seen the number of new cases decrease. The bad news is the last five or six years that number remains steady," Chan said.

About 100 new cases a year, he said. But it's not the most common infectious disease. Chlamydia, which is sexually transmitted, is, especially among younger people, 15 to 24. So far this year, according to the CDC, there have been more than 2,000 reported cases in Rhode Island.

"Chlamydia is completely treatable and curable. We tend to give a single dose of a medication called azithromycin and that will cure the vast majority of cases," Chan said.

But left untreated, there can be consequences.

"We worry about things known as pelvic inflammatory disease, which is basically an infection of the ovaries and the fallopian tubes and that can actually, people can die from that, so it can be a serious complication. Other complications of chlamydia can be things like infertility in women," Chan said.

The second most common infectious disease in our area, according to Chan, is also sexually transmitted. It's gonorrhea, and like chlamydia it may or may not be accompanied by symptoms.

Other common infectious diseases in our area, not sexually transmitted, include salmonella, Lyme and pneumococcal disease.

The Miriam Hospital Immunology Center offers testing for many of the infectious diseases, and it's free of charge.