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Reported gonorrhea cases in Alaska spike to highest rate in decades

  • Author: Tegan Hanlon
  • Updated: October 3, 2017
  • Published October 3, 2017

In 2016, Alaska recorded its highest rate of gonorrhea in more than two decades, and preliminary numbers show the increase is continuing this year, according to data from the state.

With the growing number of reported gonorrhea cases, the state health department warned of a "statewide outbreak" on Tuesday and encouraged people who may have come in contact with the sexually transmitted disease to get tested.

"Since we haven't been able to control this outbreak, we're seeking the help from the public and the (health care) providers," said Susan Jones, HIV and STD program manager for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

Gonorrhea rates, Alaska and the U.S., 2008-2016

In 2016, the rate of reported gonorrhea cases in Alaska totaled 197 per 100,000 people, the highest it's been since 1990, according to department data.

From 2015 to 2016, the number of gonorrhea cases in Alaska jumped by about 30 percent, from 1,115 cases to 1,454 cases, according to the department.

In just the first six months of 2017, the state had already recorded 1,035 cases of the sexually transmitted disease.

More than half of those 2017 cases occurred in Anchorage, Jones said, and 58 percent of those patients were 29 years old or younger.

Any person can get gonorrhea through unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner, the health department said Tuesday.

"If you're having sex with individuals and you don't know that they don't have a sexually transmitted disease — get tested," Jones said. "If you have any signs or symptoms — get tested. If a partner says they have signs of the disease — get tested."

Jones said some men and most women with gonorrhea do not show symptoms. More information about gonorrhea and its symptoms can be found at cdc.gov/std.

Jones said gonorrhea can be treated. Untreated gonorrhea can cause serious health problems, including infertility and pregnancy complications, she said.

The state's increasing number of gonorrhea cases follows a rise in the STD nationwide, Jones said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 2016 STD Surveillance Report released last week revealed that national gonorrhea rates increased by 18.5 percent from 2015 to 2016.

The report said Alaska ranked as the state with the fourth highest rate of gonorrhea cases in 2016 and with the highest rate of chlamydia.

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