'The Clap' reaches outbreak levels in Snohomish County

EVERETT -- Health officials in Snohomish County are warning residents about a drastic increase in the number of gonorrhea cases present in the county over the past year.

According to the Snohomish Health District, the number of reported cases rose from 168 in 2012 to 249 in 2013 - a nearly 50 percent jump. The number was the highest incidence of gonorrhea in the county's history.

Gonorrhea rates statewide have climbed steadily since 2010, with state officials unable to pinpoint any specific causes, officials said.

The CDC estimates that nearly 20 million new sexually transmitted infections occur every year in this country, half among young people ages 15-24. In Snohomish County, about one-third of new gonorrhea cases in 2013 were in young people ages 15-24.

Among sexually transmitted infections, gonorrhea is second only to chlamydia. Gonorrhea spreads through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner. The infection often has no symptoms, particularly among women. Even when a woman has symptoms, they often are mild and can be mistaken for a bladder infection or other vaginal infection.

The only certain way to know if you are infected is to be tested.

Dr. Gary Goldbaum, Health Officer and Director of the Snohomish Health District, stressed that gonorrhea was a serious disease. He said abstinence was the only sure way to prevent gonorrhea, but risk could be reduced through condom usage and mutual monogamy.