Gonorrhea cases up 94 percent in Utah; biggest jump among females

Nov 13 2013 - 11:03am


Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology
Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology

SALT LAKE CITY  - Preliminary data from the Utah Department of Health, Bureau of Epidemiology indicate that 633 cases of gonorrhea were reported statewide from Jan. 1 through Sept.  30 of this year, with 327 cases reported during the same period in 2012.

This jump represents a 94 percent increase.  In 2012, a total of 480 cases were reported in Utah.

Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease (after chlamydia) and the fifth most frequently reported communicable disease in Utah. The bacteria are spread through sexual contact with an infected partner. The infection often has no symptoms.  If symptoms are present, they may include discharge or painful urination. Serious long-term health issues can occur if the disease isn't treated, including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease and an increased likelihood of acquiring HIV and other STDs.  

"Over the past five years, gonorrhea in Utah has been diagnosed primarily among males," said Lynn Meinor, program manager for the health department's Disease Precention Program. "However in 2013, there are increased cases among females  and within the heterosexual population."

 In 2012, 73 percent of reported cases were among males, while 27 percent were among females.  In the first three quarters of 2013, 60 percent of cases have been among males, while females comprised 40 percent.

The Salt Lake County Health Department reports an increase in gonorrhea cases that mirrors the statewide increase.  Health experts recommend testing for anyone who is sexually active, particularly anyone with new and/or multiple sexual partners even if they do not have symptoms.

"People often don't test because they have no symptoms.  They like to think that they would know if they had an infection, and this is simply a myth," says Lynn Beltran, Epidemiology Supervisor, Bureau of Infectious Diseases at Salt Lake County Health Department.  "We are at the point with this increase that we need people to be talking about it, and we want people to get tested to ensure their well-being,"

Beltran said Salt Lake County accounted for 72 percent of the gonorrhea cases in the state from January through September 2013.

Gonorrhea is treatable, but the bacteria have become resistant to many antibiotics over the years.  As a result, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revised the gonorrhea treatment guidelines in 2012, and treatment for gonorrhea now requires a single dose injection plus oral antibiotics taken either as a single dose or twice a day for 7 days.

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