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During 2022, there has been a strong increase in gonorrhea cases in Norway, particularly among young heterosexuals. Folkehelseinstituttet (FHI) asks the health service to be vigilant.

– Gonorrhea is highly contagious. Now we have to get the young people to use condoms, says senior adviser Øivind Nilsen at FHI.

– The strong increase in infections among young women is particularly worrying. Women are more easily infected and risk more serious illness than men, says Øivind Nilsen.

The incidence of gonorrhea increased significantly in the 10-year period from 2010 until the pandemic in 2020, particularly among men who have sex with men, but fell sharply during the pandemic. During 2022, the incidence has increased again, especially from August, among young heterosexuals in connection with the normal reopening of universities and colleges. This shows figures from the Reporting System for Infectious Diseases (MSIS).

Reported cases in women have increased tenfold in a few years

The figures for 2022 show that there is a tenfold increase in reported gonorrhea cases among women compared to a few years ago, from 51 cases in 2012 to 499 in 2022.

Most of the people who were reported infected in 2022 are in the 20-29 age group, with a median age of 22 years among women and 25 years among heterosexually infected men.

FHI already notified the infection control doctors and clinics in the most affected municipalities, including Bergen, Oslo, Trondheim and Stavanger, about the situation in August last year. Targeted information was then put in place for the student communities and health centres, including extensive media coverage.

The worrying development continues in 2023 with 277 new cases reported in January alone, of which 116 cases among women. If this trend continues, there are likely to be more than 3,000 gonorrhea cases in 2023.

Fears outbreak among young heterosexuals

– Gonorrhea is highly contagious. The outbreak potential is significant if the infection now establishes itself among heterosexual young people, where frequent partner changes and low condom use are widespread, says Øivind Nilsen.

Increased attention to the disease and knowledge of the risk of infection among young people is particularly important.

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– Now we have to get the young people to use condoms. Remember that it is when meeting a new or casual partner that almost all infection occurs – always use a condom then, he urges.

Correct treatment and thorough infection tracking are important

– Targeted testing and diagnostics, and the correct choice of antibiotics in treatment, as well as thorough infection tracking in the health service, are now crucial to getting the situation under control, says Nilsen.

The Directorate of Health and the Institute of Public Health are closely monitoring the situation, and are now sending out letters to the country’s municipal doctors with information about the situation, advice on preventive measures, availability of testing, treatment, and the importance of thorough infection tracing. FHI has also prepared information material aimed at the public that the health service can use.