County health officials warn of gonorrhea outbreak

EVERETT — The number of gonorrhea cases in Snohomish County has spiked dramatically, reaching the highest incidence in the county’s history, public health officials say.

The number of people reported to have the sexually transmitted disease rose from 168 in 2012 to 249 in 2013. The 50 percent increase in cases ranks it as a disease outbreak.

Snohomish is one of six counties in the state reporting big increases in gonorrhea cases, said Suzanne Pate, spokeswoman for the Snohomish Health District. The others are Spokane, Yakima, Kitsap, Benton and Thurston counties.

About one-third of the cases in Snonomish County are among people between the ages of 15 and 24.

Gonorrhea rates in Washington have climbed steadily since 2010, but state health officials are unable to pinpoint specific causes.

Gonorrhea is spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. In women, the infection has either no symptoms or mild symptoms, sometimes mistaken for a bladder infection. In men it can cause a burning sensation during urination.

If untreated, gonorrhea can cause pelvic inflammatory disease and infertility, and it can increase the risk of HIV transmission.

The bacterial disease can be treated with antibiotics.

Over the past five years, the lowest number of gonorrhea cases in Snohomish County occurred in 2009, when 148 were reported, Pate said. There were 191 reported in 2010, 169 in 2011 and 168 in 2012.

Sharon Salyer: 425-339-3486 or salyer@heraldnet.com.

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