SNOHOMISH COUNTY --- A sharp increase in the number of gonorrhea cases in Snohomish County has health care providers on alert. Snohomish Health District officials report 96 gonorrhea cases so far this year, compared to 36 cases reported during the first five months of 2000.
“When we see a jump in cases like this, the Health District responds immediately in several important ways,” said M. Ward Hinds, MD, MPH, Health Officer for Snohomish Health District. “We notify all the health care providers in the county, step up our contact investigations, remind the public of the seriousness of this disease and direct them to screening and treatment,” he said.
Although gonorrhea infections in the United States have declined in the past two decades, gonorrhea case reports have been increasing in Washington state since 1998. Dr. Hinds noted that the recent Snohomish County cases are more often in teenage girls and men over the age of 25 compared to the infected populations in 2000.
Gonorrhea infection in men usually causes a discharge and burning pain on urination, prompting medical attention. Symptoms in women are less likely to be recognized --- and untreated infections can result in pelvic inflammation leading to scarring of pelvic organs, infertility, and pregnancy within a scarred fallopian tube instead of the uterus.
“The bottom line is that sexually active people who are not in a mutually monogamous relationship risk sexually transmitted diseases,” said Dr. Hinds. “The risk of gonorrhea in Snohomish County is greater now than it has been.” When used consistently and correctly, condoms are an effective barrier to transmission of gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), including HIV, the cause of AIDS, he said.
Snohomish Health District provides clinical STD services including screening and treatment, on a sliding scale basis according to income. The Health District also offers advice on notifying partners, medical consultation and patient education.
STD services are available through Snohomish Health District by calling 425.339.5298; through Planned Parenthood; or through private health care providers. Sexual partners of persons with gonorrhea and other STDs always should be advised to seek screening and treatment, even if they do not have symptoms.
Established in 1959, the Snohomish Health District works to improve the health of individuals, families and communities through disease prevention, health promotion, and protection from environmental threats.