393% Increase in Gonorrhea Cases in Utah

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 UTAH) - The state of Utah is seeing an alarming increase in sexually transmitted diseases, specifically, gonorrhea.  From 2011 to 2014, the gonorrhea cases went up 393 percent.  That's almost four times as many diagnoses in a three-year-span.

Local health districts are handing out "safe sex packets" which are full of condoms, lube, and educational information.  It's just one way health professionals are trying to curb the growing trend.

"People are having sex here and they are having unprotected sex," said Utah Department of Health STD Epidemiologist Joel Hartsell.

Hartsell says that's the biggest misconception in Utah.  While some may think STDs aren't prevalent in the state, new numbers prove they're here and spreading.

"Males were more likely to claim casual or anonymous sex partners; whereas females were more likely to claim a history of meth use and incarceration," said Hartsell.

There's a shift in the incidence rates.  In a three year period, gonorrhea cases spiked 296% in males and 717% in females.

"50% of females remain asymptomatic so they show no signs or symptoms but they're capable of spreading it and it's causing damage," said Hartsell.

So not getting tested regularly could mean a lingering problem with long-term effects.

"It can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease which can lead to infertility. and it's the number one cause of preventable fertility," said Hartsell.

If tests prove you have gonorrhea, health department workers track down your partners and offer free testing and treatment for them as well.  And it's in all age groups, but specifically 15-25 year olds and 30-34 year olds.

"So now that it's prevalent in that population, it's going to spread and it's going to spread rapidly," said Hartsell.

You'll notice more campaigns popping up around the state like "Condoms Still Work" button.  Learn more about STDs click here.  

Each year, the Utah Health Department holds an STD Clinical Update.  It's where health workers can learn about the latest trends and how to help their patients.  While it's usually held in the fall, because of the skyrocketing cases of gonorrhea, that meeting has now been pushed to May 18th at University Guest House & Conference Center at 110 South Fort Douglas Rd, Salt Lake City, UT.

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