The Utah Department of Health released data Wednesday that show a 94 percent increase in the number of reported cases of gonorrhea in the state.
State health officials say 633 cases have been reported so far this year compared to 327 cases during the same period last year. Lynn Meinor is manger of the Communicable Disease Program at the Utah Department of Health. She says much of 94 percent increase is due to more women getting the disease.
“More females are being diagnosed with gonorrhea as compared to the same time period for last year. This has been a really significant shift moving to the heterosexual population,” says Meinor.
Gonorrhea bacteria have mutated over the last decade and become more resistant to antibiotics. The infection often exhibits few or no symptoms, but can result in pelvic inflammatory disease or infertility. Lynn Beltran is an epidemiology supervisor with the Salt Lake County Health Department. She says those most at risk are the poor and underserved.
“We’re seeing a lot of the infection in people who have a history of substance abuse, homelessness, incarceration, which is making our ability to control the spread of this a little bit difficult because a lot times those patients are hard to reach,” says Beltran.
Beltran says getting people screened for the disease is crucial, but getting those already diagnosed to inform their sexual partners is difficult to do. So county health officials are offering help.
“We can contact your sexual partners. We do it completely anonymously where absolutely no information is given to the sexual partners that might incriminate them as to the possible source of the infection. And really what we do is we just invite people to come in to our clinic and get free testing and treatment services,” says Beltran.