SALT LAKE CITY -- Gonorrhea cases are up 94 percent in the state, according to a preliminary report from the Utah Department of Health and much of the increase is being seen among women.
Between January and September of this year, 633 cases of the sexually transmitted disease were reported statewide, compared with 327 cases reported during the same time period in 2012.
Both Weber-Morgan Health Department and the Davis County Health Department are also reporting an increase. From January to September 2012, Weber-Morgan Health Department had 31 cases reported. This year, during the same time period, 53 cases have been reported. Davis County Health Department had 33 cases in 2012 and 46 so far this year during the same time frame.
"Our county trends are similar to the state's overall trends in the fact that we are seeing an increase in gonorrhea rates and that female cases are increasing over the last year as well, compared to past rates of infection for females verses male clients," said Weber-Morgan Health Department communicable disease and epidemiology director, Amy Carter.
Next to Chlamydia, gonorrhea is the second most common STD and the fifth most frequently reported communicable disease in Utah, according to UDOH. Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterium that can easily grow in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive system, including the cervix, uterus and fallopian tubes in women and the urethra in both women and men. It can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes and anus.
"Over the past five years, gonorrhea in Utah has been diagnosed primarily among males. However, in 2013, there are increased cases among females and within the heterosexual population," said UDOH communicable disease prevention program director, Lynn Meinor.
In 2012, 73 percent of reported cases were among males, while 27 percent were among females. So far this year, 60 percent of cases have been among males and 40 percent among females.
Davis County Health Department communicable disease and epidemiology division director, Wendy Garcia, said the increase in cases may be in part related to the addition of STD screening opportunities within high risk populations in Davis County.
"Davis County has seen an increase in gonorrhea cases the past two years," she said. "Increase in females cases are 46 percents and 54 percent in males compared to 37 percent in females and 63 percent in males in 2012," Garcia said.
The largest disease burden is among those ages 15 to 24, she said.
Carter said people need to be aware of the risks and possible complication of the disease. If not treated gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints and can even be life threatening. The disease 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 to require a single dose injection in addition to oral antibiotics.
"In 2011 we increased staff education and training in STD investigations and we are continuing to work on investigating reported gonorrhea cases quickly and thoroughly in order to ensure appropriate treatment and education to the client as well as to get their recent partners tested and treated," Carter said.
Garcia said knowing your STD status is an important step in preventing the spread of the disease. Those who should be tested include sexually active women 25 years and younger, sexually active men or women who have more than one sexual partner, all men having sex with men, pregnant women and anyone sexually active who desires testing.
Abstinence, being faithful and using a condom are the best ways to prevent contracting gonorrhea, Carter and Garcia said.