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Don't Get Swept Away – Crew and STDs
Posted: Wednesday, October 19, 2011 7:14 PM
Joined: 02/05/2008
Posts: 392

Life at sea is exciting. Visiting exotic ports, meeting beautiful people and enjoying tasty cocktails are ingredients for some great times, but they also can lead to some not so great decisions.

It’s easy to get swept up in the moment, but don’t forget the facts. Each year, millions of people acquire sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).  Know the facts, protect yourself and don’t be one of the statistics.  

Transferred from one person to another through sexual contact, STDs can be contracted through vaginal, anal or oral sex.  The common sexually transmitted disease, trichomoniasis, can also be picked up from contact with damp or moist objects such as towels, wet clothing or a toilet seat that have touched an infected person’s genital area.

Although some STDs produce no symptoms, they still can be passed from person to person.  The most common STDs are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, genital herpes, human papillomavirus, hepatitis B, trichomoniasis and bacterial vaginosis.  

While the above are the most common STDs, it is important to note that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) occurs in the maritime community as well. HIV is transmitted through sexual contact, sharing of needles and contaminated blood transfusions.  

When it comes to STDs, prevention is paramount You can prevent STDs in the following ways:
•    Use condoms. Protect yourself with a condom every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Condoms should be used for any type of sex with every partner.
•    Know that some methods of birth control, like birth control pills, shots, implants or diaphragms, will not protect you from STDs. If you use one of these methods, be sure to also use a latex condom or dental dam (used for oral sex) correctly every time you have sex.
•    Talk with your sexual partner(s) about STDs and using condoms. It’s up to you to make sure you are protected. Remember, it’s your body! Speak frankly with your doctor or telemedicine service and your sex partner(s) about any STDs you or your partners have or had. Try not to be embarrassed.
•    Women should have regular pelvic exams. Speak with your doctor about how often you need them. Many tests for STDs can be done during an exam. Ask your doctor to test you for STDs if you are at risk. The sooner an STD is found, the easier it is to treat.

STDs are treated in a variety of ways, based on the type of STD. Treatment regimens may include a long-term course of oral medications or a one-time injection of medication. For other STDs that can’t be cured, like herpes, topical or oral medications that are used on an intermittent or routine basis can relieve you of the symptoms. It is always best to contact your telemedicine provider as soon as you notice symptoms or have concerns about a potential exposure.

Remember: be safe, be prepared and don’t get swept away.  Nothing is more important than your health and wellbeing.   


By: MedAire staff with medical information provided by Ginger Bartos, RN, BSN Manager, GRC Medical Operations.  MedAire provides medical advice, training, and medical equipment for crew at sea and ashore.

Common STDs, Symptoms and Risks

The following chart lists symptoms and risks associated with the most common STDs. 



  • discharge from penis
  • abnormal vaginal discharge
  • burning when urinating
  • bleeding between menstrual periods

Infections that are not treated, even if there are no symptoms, can lead to:

  • lower abdominal pain
  • low back pain
  • nausea
  • fever
  • pain during sex
  • bleeding between periods
  • infertility in women

Note: It is common for women to be symptom-free despite being infected.



  • discharge from penis
  • pain or burning when urinating
  • yellowish and sometimes bloody vaginal discharge
  • bleeding between menstrual periods

Symptoms are often mild, but most women have no symptoms. Even when women have symptoms, they can sometimes be mistaken for a bladder or another vaginal infection.


Symptoms in the first (primary) stage:

  • a single, painless sore, usually in the genital areas but sometimes in the mouth

If the infection is not treated, it moves to the next stage:

  • skin rash on the hands and feet that usually does not itch and clears on its own
  • fever
  • swollen lymph glands
  • sore throat
  • patchy hair loss
  • headaches
  • weight loss
  • muscle aches
  • tiredness

In the latent (hidden) stage, the initial symptoms disappear, but the symptoms from the second stage can come back. In the late stage, infection remains in the body and can damage the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints.


Genital Herpes

Some people may have no symptoms.

During an “outbreak,” the symptoms are clear:

  • small red bumps, blisters, or open sores on the penis, vagina, or on areas close by
  • vaginal discharge
  • fever
  • headache
  • muscle aches
  • pain when urinating
  • itching, burning or swollen glands in genital area
  • pain in legs, buttocks or genital area

Symptoms may go away and then come back.

Sores heal after two to four weeks.


Human Papillomavirus

Women with symptoms may have:

  • visible warts in the genital area, including the thighs; warts can be raised or flat, alone or in groups, small or large, and sometimes they are cauliflower-shaped.
  • lesions on the cervix and in the vagina

Note: Some women have no symptoms.


Hepatitis B


  • mild fever
  • headache and muscle aches
  • tiredness
  • loss of appetite
  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • dark-colored urine and pale bowel movements
  • stomach pain
  • skin and whites of eyes turning yellow

Note: Women commonly have no symptoms, despite being infected.



Symptoms usually appear five to 28 days after exposure and can include:

  • yellow, green or gray vaginal discharge (often foamy) with a strong odor
  • discomfort during sex and when urinating
  • irritation and itching of the genital area
  • lower abdominal pain in rare cases


Bacterial Vaginosis


  • vaginal itching
  • pain when urinating
  • discharge with a fishy odor

Note: Women commonly have no symptoms, despite being infected.


By: MedAire staff with medical information provided by Ginger Bartos, RN, BSN Manager, GRC Medical Operations.  MedAire provides medical advice, training, and medical equipment for crew at sea and ashore.
Posted: Friday, October 21, 2011 9:12 PM
Joined: 05/09/2008
Posts: 22

Condoms are for seamen!