Gonorrhea outbreak reported in Siskiyou County

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Siskiyou County Public Health is reporting an increase in the sexually transmitted disease Gonorrhea.

“The year is not even half over and we have already equaled last year’s record number of 22 Gonorrhea cases, states PHN and STD program coordinator Kara LeMere in a press release from the Health & Human Services Agency - Public Health Division.

Left untreated, Gonorrhea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men, and can be life-threatening. But Public Health points out that it is easily diagnosed and can be cured with the right treatment – the sooner the better to prevent irreparable damage.

The signs of Gonorrhea can be mild at first, according to the press release. “Most people have no signs of an infection, but common symptoms include a burning sensation when urinating, or a white, yellow, or green discharge that usually appears 1 to 14 days after infection, and pain or tenderness in your abdominal region. Swollen genitals and a sore throat may also occur.”

It is possible to contract more than one STD at a time, according to Public Health. “One-third of the individuals having Gonorrhea in Siskiyou County have also been dually diagnosed with Chlamydia, which Public Health is also seeing a rise in cases with 54 cases being reported this year. In 2013, 78 cases of Chlamydia were reported.

Four cases of Syphilis have been investigated this year as well, according to the release. Last year, Siskiyou County had seven cases of Syphilis.

Eight cases in a month, yearly average was seven

“Public Health received reports of eight cases of Gonorrhea in the past month,” according to LeMere. “Prior to last year, Siskiyou County’s yearly average for this disease was only seven cases.”

LeMere says, “This is just the number we know about, because for each diagnosed and reported case, there is at least one partner we don’t know about and sometimes multiple partners.”

Public Health case records show 12 males and 10 females have been diagnosed with Gonorrhea in persons ranging from 16 to 63 years of age, with an average age of 28 years, according to the release. The majority of cases are located in Yreka. Weed, Mount Shasta and Montague have also reported multiple cases.

Gonorrhea is a STD caused by a bacterium that easily grows in the warm, moist areas of the reproductive tract. It can also grow in the mouth, throat, eyes, and lower digestive tract.

People get gonorrhea by having sex with someone who has the disease, according to the Public Health release.

Latex condoms, when used correctly, can reduce the risk of getting or giving an STD, and Siskiyou County Public Health has free condoms available at their offices at 810 S. Main Street in Yreka. They have also been distributed to private medical offices throughout the county.

Effects, diagnosis and treatment

In women, Gonorrhea can spread into the uterus (womb) or fallopian tubes (egg canals) and cause pelvic inflammatory disease, according to the press release. “This can damage the fallopian tubes enough that a woman will be unable to have children. It can also increase her risk of ectopic pregnancy, which is a life threatening condition in which a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus.

“If a pregnant woman has Gonorrhea, she may pass the infection to her baby and it could be born blind or sick.”

In men, according to Public Health, Gonorrhea can cause epididymitis in the tubes attached to the testicles and this may prevent a man from being able to father children.

LeMere states, “Gonorrhea is easily diagnosed with a simple urine test or swabs can be used to collect a sample.”

Two specific antibiotics are administered together to treat the infection, according to LeMere. “Although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease, so it is important to seek treatment quickly at the first sign of a problem.”

Left untreated, according to the release, Gonorrhea can spread to the blood or joints and can be life-threatening. “Untreated Gonorrhea can also increase a person’s risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

To learn more

For referrals to testing and treatment sites and for more information, call Kara LeMere at 841-2128 or the Siskiyou County Public Health Department at 841-2134 and ask to speak to the Nurse of the Day.