Gonorrhea cases spike in Washington, up 40-percent

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- The number of gonorrhea cases continues to climb in Washington state.

6,136 cases were reported in 2014 compared to 4,395 cases in 2013, according to just released data from the Washington State Department of Health. That's an increase of nearly 40-percent.

The latest jump follows a 33-percent increase in cases from 2012 to 2013.

“The continued increase in cases is concerning,” said Zandt Bryan, infectious disease coordinator for the department. “We’re working closely with local health partners to monitor the situation, and to share information about the importance of routine screening, getting exposed partners treated quickly, and the need to practice safe sex.”

The Department of Health says rates of infection have been rising since 2009 from 34 cases per 100,000 people to 88 cases per 100,000 people in 2014.

Health officials say the state's gonorrhea rates are still below national figures, but they are unsure why the number keeps climbing.

The data shows most counties around the state saw an increase in cases with bigger spikes in Clark, Kitsap, Snohomish, Yakima, Grant and Spokane Counties.

Here is more infromation from the health department:

"Gonorrhea is the second most common sexually transmitted disease in the state after chlamydia. The disease is spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. The infection often has no symptoms, particularly among women. If symptoms are present, they may include discharge or painful urination. Serious long-term health issues can occur if the disease isn’t treated, including pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and increased chances of HIV transmission. State health officials encourage anyone diagnosed with gonorrhea to be tested for HIV. Men who have sex with men who are diagnosed with gonorrhea are recommended to consider getting HIV Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP).

Local and state public health workers are working with health care professionals to ensure that people with gonorrhea and their sexual partners get appropriate testing and treatment to stop ongoing spread of the disease. Gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. Health care providers should test all of these sites for disease, especially for men who have sex with men. The department also recommends that health care providers offer expedited partner therapy (EPT) medication to heterosexual patients. This ensures sex partners are treated quickly and avoids reinfection. Drugs that are currently available are effective against the disease, but gonorrhea can become resistant to medications.

The Department of Health urges anyone who is experiencing symptoms, or has a partner that has been diagnosed, to be tested. Sexually active individuals with multiple partners are encouraged to have routine screenings. Prevention methods include consistent and correct use of condoms, prompt treatment of partners, mutual monogamy, and abstinence."