Taiwan health officials are urging the public to avoid unsafe sex in light of the new numbers on gonorrhea cases on the island released earlier this week.

According to the surveillance data compiled by Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of gonorrhea cases reported increased from 2,622 in 2014 to 3,584 in 2015, reflecting a 37% increase. Moreover, the increase in the number of infected women (41%) is higher than that in the number of infected men (36%).

Neisseria gonorrhoeae/CDC
Neisseria gonorrhoeae/CDC

Further, a 47% increase in cases aged between 10 and 19 from 2014 to 2015 has been observed. Although the number of reported cases among underage girls is only a few, an 107% increase in the number of reported cases among girls aged between 10 and 19 from 2011 to 2015 has been observed, which is higher than the 102% increase in the number of reported cases among boys in the same age group.

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.

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.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.

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.

Taiwan CDC reminds young people to pay attention to the importance of safe sex and take the following precautions to ward off infection:

  1. Choose your friends on the Internet wisely.
  2. Do not engage in sex with partners with unknown sexual history
  3. Do not practice risky sexual behaviors such as attending house parties and sex parties or have multiple sex partners.
  4. Avoid the use of illicit drugs as one is more likely to practice unsafe sex when the power of self-control is diminished.
  5. Remember to use condoms and water-based personal lubricants throughout the entire sex act.

To ensure your health and the health of your sexual partner, if suspected symptoms develop or you are suspected to have gonorrhea, please see an urologist, dermatologist or gynecologist and get tested for syphilis and HIV.