[Question #5484] Sexually Transmitted Infections General Questions

23 months ago

Greetings Doctors,

I hope all is well.

I ask because my sibling tested positive for chlamydia. My sibling tested negative for other std/sti and taken medicine to clear chlamydia. I accidentally used the same towel the other morning without realizing it. My other sibling also shares beverages with our sibling who was for chlamydia. I have never stressed encounters such as these because I have read that std/sti infections are not transmitted through non-sexual routes (with the exception of injections). I am confused because upon testing my sibling was told by a clinic staff member that contaminated environments/objects were a route of transmission for std/sti infections.

In trying to not stigmatize my sibling, I admit I’m unsure how to address the conflicting information. I thought to reach out to you to check my understanding instead of feeding into unwarranted anxiety. I also ask my questions because I am entering into a relationship and am wondering if I should hold off due my use of a potentially contaminated towel and pursue testing first.

Question 1: I read from responses on the forum that sharing contaminated objects such as drinks or towels are not routes for std/sti transmission. Am I correct in interpreting interactions such as these as risk free?

Question 2: If my understanding is correct and interactions such as the ones mentioned above (sharing contaminated drinks/towels) are risk free, is there a medical obligation to disclose such interactions to potential partners?

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
23 months ago
Welcome to our forum and thanks for your question. I appreciate your confidence in our service. It distresses me when professionals provide misinformation.  The providers who suggested to your sibling that a chlamydial  infection could be spread through sharing of towels or environmental contamination is 100% categorically wrong.   This sort of this statement unnecessarily stigmatize persons who have the bad luck to acquire chlamydial infection. Most people who acquire chlamydia do not know that they are at risk and most persons who spread chlamydia are unaware of their infections.  This back now let me know if you were specific questions. 

Q1.   Please see my comment above. The most common STI's such as gonorrhea and chlamydia are not transmitted through environmental contact. This includes in sharing bath towels, sharing eating implements, or touching. It is suggested 
 That viral STI's such as herpes or HPV may rarely be spread through environmental contact  however the transmission by these routes is clinically and personally insignificant and not something to worry about. 

Q2.   Following on my response to question one there is certainly no reason for your sibling to disclose their chlamydial infection to other family members or other persons who they may have casual contact with. On the other hand disclosure to recent sexual partners  is appropriate and is a crucial  part of efforts to  prevent the unintentional spread of these all too common infections. 

I hope this information is helpful to you. If any part is unclear where there are further questions please feel free to use your up to two follow up questions to seek clarification. Take care. Please don't worry.
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23 months ago

Dr. Hook,

Thank you for your fast reply. I am relieved to hear the information we received was incorrect. That clears a lot up for me. If you’ll allow me to summarize to make sure what I have accurately understood your explaination.

You explained that the viral STI’s are rarely spread through objects (ie. drinks and towels), this also hold true for the hepatitis B and C viruses in regarding to potentially contaminated objects.

Per some of the answered forums I read through I did suggest my sibling consider retesting in a few weeks to wait out window periods for optimal results. I am happy my sibling did the responsible thing by disclosing this to his partner and seems spooked into practicing safer sex practices in the future.

At the end of the window period should my sibling test positive for any other std/sti, I (who accidently shared a towel and have shared drinks) am still not at risk beyond theoretical risks (evident of no documented/confirmed cases from literature) and can continue to date and engage in intimacy with my partner. These are not risks that realistically affect me and I need not bring up the fact that I have shared a towel or drink with potentially std/sti person to my own partners. This is in the same vain that I would not fixate on the fact I have used a public toilet that may have been used by someone carrying an std/sti. This is unwarranted and would create unnecessary anxiety.

I sincerely thank you Dr. Hook. You, Handsfield, and Warren for your efforts.

Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
23 months ago
Your summary is almost correct.  I would re-state your comments about hepatitis B and C more strongly.  I an not aware of any evidence that these infections are transmitted environmentally.

Your sibling is unlikely to fail recommended treatment.  For this reason, follow-up tests of cure are not routinely recommended unless there is some other reason to worry.  Even if he were to test positive again in the future, there would be no reason for you to worry about shared towels or eating utensils.  Nor is there any reason related to your sibling's infection for you to worry about sexual contact with your own partner, presuming of course that your sibling has not had sexual contact with your partner.    Similarly, STIs are not acquired from use of public toilets.  No reason to worry about this either.

Hope this clarifies things.  EWH
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23 months ago

Dr. Hook,

Thank you for everything. After talking with my sibling and going over their results we are going to let this go and not pursue further testing (and save some money) :)

My siblings current partner also tested negative for all other std/sti’s, and while my sibling admitted to having another partner about 3 months ago they explained they used protection, which is a relief because they initially were not.

Also, thank you for helping to set to rest any anxieties I had about implications a siblings status could (or in this case will not have) on other household members.

Have a great summer!


Edward W. Hook M.D.
Edward W. Hook M.D.
23 months ago
Thanks for your thanks.  I agree with the decision to not pursue further testing.  Take Care.  EWH---