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Alarming Increase of Gonorrhea Rates Reported in Denver

Urgent need for testing, treatment, and prevention efforts

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Recent data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment show that the number of gonorrhea cases in the Denver metro area has increased significantly among young people, especially in people under the age of 30. From 2012 - 2016 infection rates increased 97 percent in Colorado, and five Denver metro counties (Adams, Arapahoe, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson) accounted for 63 percent of all gonorrhea cases in Colorado.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that affects both men and women. Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea, and it can be transmitted through any type of sex. Gonorrhea can increase a person's risk of getting or giving HIV, and if left untreated, it can cause serious and permanent health problems including infertility. Gonorrhea can be prevented by using condoms correctly, every time a person has sex.

The rapid increase of gonorrhea cases in Denver metro, and across the state, emphasizes the need for routine STD testing and prevention efforts more than ever. Especially alarming is that the infection is beginning to outsmart the last recommended treatment.

"In the Denver Metro area, we are starting to see gonorrhea infections that have lower sensitivity to one of the two main antibiotics we use," said Karen Wendel, MD, director, STD/HIV Prevention and Control, Denver Public Health. "Though we haven't yet seen failures with current treatments in Denver, all people with gonorrhea should get treated as quickly as possible to avoid serious health problems, prevent the spread to others, and to avoid evolution of the bacteria that could result in future antibiotic treatment failures."

Screening for gonorrhea is important since many people who have infection will not have symptoms. People who should get tested include women younger than 25 or with other risk factors for STDs, and people living HIV. Anyone experiencing symptoms of gonorrhea such as itching, burning or other discomfort in the genital area should seek treatment (a one-time shot and prescribed oral antibiotic) right away through their doctor or local public health department. Treatment is easy and effective if taken immediately, and as prescribed.

Free or low-cost STD testing is offered at locations throughout the greater Denver metro area, including at local public health clinics and in community settings.