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Sadly, even if a woman feels “something’s wrong,” there are plenty of other reasons to explain it, such as menstrual pain or indigestion, she said.

Dr. Shuford’s assessment is this:

• Although 1.1 million new chlamydia infections are reported, as many as 2 million more cases are unreported. Thus, countless men and women go untreated — and quietly transmit the infection. (Most men don’t have symptoms, either.)

• Of untreated chlamydia infections in women, from 10 percent to 40 percent will end in PID.

• Roughly 1 million women a year are treated for PID (from chlamydia and other sources), and more than 100,000 of these women will end up infertile.

On the bright side, “chlamydia is easily curable with standard treatment,” Dr. Shuford said.

But outside of abstinence or sex with only a monogamous, infection-free partner, it will be hard to avoid. Condoms are about 50 percent protective, according to the sparse research, she said.

Thus, the sad story I heard is just one of many, many out there. Countless young people won’t even discover their damaged reproductive systems until they are trying to conceive and it doesn’t happen. Untreated chlamydia sterilizes men, too.

“Infertility will continue to rise as long as chlamydia continues to rise,” Dr. Shuford said. “It’s silent. It’s happening to so many people. There’s no need to feel stigmatized [by getting chlamydia],” she added. “You just need to go get treated.”

Cheryl Wetzstein can be reached at