The state of New Hampshire is reporting an increase in the number of gonorrhea cases this year as compared to 2013, prompting the New Hampshire Division of Public Health Services (NHDPHS) to send out a sent out a memorandum to area clinicians alerting them to the rise in the sexually transmitted infection (STI).
In 2014 year-to-date (Jan. 1 to Sept. 30), the Granite State has seen 162 cases of gonorrhea, a number significantly higher than the entire of 2013 (118). In fact, the 2014 number is more than any year from 2009-2013.
Rockingham and Strafford Counties show the highest number of reported cases, according to the alert.
However at the same time, New Hampshire health officials have seen a decrease in other STIs like chlamydia, syphilis and HIV.
Chlamydia cases are dramatically lower in 2014 YTD than 2013, (1256 vs 3127), syphilis (51 vs 75) and HIV (20 vs 31).
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused the bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This bacterium can infect the genital tract, mouth and rectum of both men and women. Ejaculation does not have to occur for the disease to be transmitted. It can also be transmitted from mother to baby during delivery.
Symptoms of gonorrhea usually appear with 2 to 5 days after sexual contact with an infected partner, occasionally symptoms make take longer to appear.
In women, infection may be asymptomatic. If present, the early symptoms of gonorrhea are often mild. The first symptoms in women are frequently; painful or burning sensations when urinating, an increase in discharge (yellow or bloody) and bleeding after intercourse.
Men have symptoms more often than women and they may include; a white, yellow or green discharge from the penis with pain, burning sensations during urination, and painful, swollen testicles.
While infection of the throat and rectum are frequently asymptomatic, rectal infection may have discharge, itching and painful bowel movements.
Related story: Seven out of 10 new gonorrhea infections in U.S. are in people ages 15-24: CDC
The complications of untreated gonorrhea are numerous. The most common being pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), a serious infection of the female reproductive tract.
Ectopic pregnancy may occur due to scar tissue that’s formed in the fallopian tubes. This can result in miscarriage or death of the mother.
In men, untreated gonorrhea can cause epididymitis, a painful condition of the testicles that can lead to infertility.
Rarely, untreated gonorrhea can spread through the blood to the joints, causing permanent joint damage (gonococcal arthritis).
Problems for the newborn that gets gonorrhea during delivery are blindness, joint and blood infections.
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is treatable with antibiotics; however it has become resistant to many antibiotics over the years. Gonorrhea and chlamydia often infect people at the same time; therefore doctors usually prescribe treatment for both diseases.
If you have gonorrhea, all of your sexual partners should get tested and treated if infected, whether or not they have symptoms.
What are the best ways to prevent gonorrhea? The surest way to avoid any STI is to abstain from sexual contact or be in a long term mutually monogamous relationship with known uninfected person.
The use of condoms consistently and correctly during sexual activity (vaginal or rectal) can reduce your risk of infection.
Christine Adamski, Bureau Chief of Infectious Disease at NHDPHS says, “While we have seen an increase, looking at the five-year numbers, we are not considering that this rises to the level of an outbreak. Most cases are easily treated with antibiotics. Anyone who is experiencing urinary symptoms including pain, or who have a penile or vaginal discharge should be evaluated by their primary physician or a gynecologist, especially if they have not been using condoms. It’s just common sense.”
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