The number of reported cases of chlamydia among children and teenagers between the ages of 10 and 19 has increased by almost 40pc, it has been revealed.
The figures, released in the latest annual report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), have fuelled fears that cases of infertility among young people will rise.
Some 814 chlamydia infections were identified in Ireland for that age group in 2008, the latest year for which complete figures for sexually transmitted infections are available.
This compares to 589 cases in 2007 -- a massive 38.2pc in just a year.
The report also revealed that, chlamydia cases represented more than half or 55.7pc of all sexually transmitted infections (STI) notifications, with 6,290 people contracting the disease in 2008 -- a 25.2pc increase from 2007.
These figures are particularly worrying as chlamydia trachomatis is a major cause of female infertility.
Moreover, the disease often goes unnoticed and its prevalence is likely to be underestimated as three in four women and 50pc of men do not experience any symptoms of infection.
Earlier this year, a consultant in infectious diseases at the Mater Hospital, Dr Jack Lambert, said that while official figures show the number of STIs reported for all ages trebled between 1995 and 2006, the annual figure of 12,000 (11,294 in 2008) could be as high as 120,000.
He said around 10-20pc of sexually active people are estimated to be carriers of chlamydia, which can also result in ectopic pregnancy in women.
"Ireland is a very liberal country but with a veneer of conservatism," Dr Lambert said, adding that routine screening of sexually active people was "the way forward".