Officials at the Yukon Health and Social Service are issuing an alarm in the province over the dramatic increase in the sexually transmitted infection, gonorrhea, in 2015. According to a post on the officials Facebook page, so far in 2015, the number of cases of Gonorrhea in Yukon is 6 x higher than expected.

Yukon/Image by EOZyo
Yukon/Image by EOZyo

According to a CBC News report, Brendan Hanley, Yukon’s chief medical officer of health, says there have been about 90 known cases of the sexually transmitted infection so far this year. That’s double the number from 2014, and roughly nine times the number from 2013, which was considered a typical year for infection rates.

The increase has prompted health officials to encourage the public to get tested for the STI. The Better to Know website states:

Don’t be ashamed about getting tested for STIs. You may have an STI and not even know you’re infected. So could your new partner. All sexually active guys and girls need to get tested if they are having sex with a new partner. STI testing in the Yukon is free and confidential.

Dr. Hanley says most of the cases are in teens and young adults and are not restricted to Whitehorse, but also are being seen in rural Yukon.

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.

Gonorrhea image/CDC
Gonorrhea image/CDC

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.

When a child has the infection in any part of the body, it’s most commonly due to sexual abuse.

Gonorrhea can be diagnosed by several laboratory procedures. These include staining samples directly for the bacteria, detecting bacterial genes or DNA and growing the organism in laboratory culture.

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.

Robert Herriman is a microbiologist and the Editor-in-Chief of Outbreak News Today

Follow @bactiman63