St. Mary’s leads the state in gon­or­rhea in­crease

Health depart­ment can’t ex­plain the spike in num­ber of cases

Maryland Independent - - News - By JA­SON BAB­COCK jbab­cock@somd­ Twit­ter: @Ja­sonEn­tNews

St. Mary’s County led the state last year in the in­creased rate of gon­or­rhea — a sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease — the county com­mis­sion­ers were told Tues­day by the St. Mary’s health of­fi­cer.

“We’ve had a pretty steep” in­crease in the num­ber of cases per 100,000 peo­ple, Dr. Meena Brew­ster told the com­mis­sion­ers.

The num­ber has “spiked con­sid­er­ably,” she said, from a rate of 34.2 per 100,000 peo­ple in 2015 to 113.6 in 2016 — an in­crease of more than 230 per­cent. “The rate of in­crease in St. Mary’s County is the high­est in the state,” she said.

Brew­ster said the in­ci­dence of gon­or­rhea has “in­creased across the state to some de­gree,” but it’s not con­sid­ered to be an epi­demic in St. Mary’s de­spite the sharp in­crease.

It’s “def­i­nitely a spike we’re delv­ing into deeper,” she said, ad­ding that the health depart­ment is look­ing at what fac­tors con­trib­uted to the in­crease. “We’re very con­cerned about that,” she said.

In 2016, the rate of gon­or­rhea in Charles County was 104 per 100,000 peo­ple and in Calvert County it was 42 per 100,000, ac­cord­ing to the state health depart­ment. Both fig­ures were higher than the rates in 2015. In Mary­land the 2016 rate was 158.3 per 100,000 peo­ple, up from 114.2 the year be­fore.

“Across the na­tion and in Mary­land, there has been an in­crease in the rate of gon­or­rhea,” Terry Prochnow, health depart­ment di­vi­sion di­rec­tor of pub­lic health pre­pared­ness and re­sponse, said in an email this week. “It is un­known for sure the rea­son for the in­crease; how­ever, an­tibi­otic re­sis­tance could be con­tribut­ing fac­tors.”

The health depart­ment has been reach­ing out to lo­cal med­i­cal of­fices to make sure that they are us­ing cur­rent treat­ment pro­to­cols that were up­dated in 2015, Brew­ster said.

The health depart­ment is look­ing to ex­pand com­mu­nity ed­u­ca­tion, test­ing and treat­ment for gon­or­rhea, she said.

“Tell me, as some­one who doesn’t have to deal with gon­or­rhea ei­ther, the STDs, don’t they all just go up?” Com­mis­sioner Mike He­witt (R) asked.

“Ac­tu­ally, no,” Brew­ster said. “We have dif­fer­ent ones that tend to pop up. This one is such a strik­ing rise that we’re very con­cerned about it and look­ing into it fur­ther.”

“Is it rel­e­gated to a cer­tain pop­u­la­tion?” He­witt asked.

“No. It cov­ers for the most part ado­les­cents through older age groups — males and fe­males, dif­fer­ent parts of the county,” Brew­ster said. “Are we see­ing direct clus­ters? Are we see­ing clus­ters based on dif­fer­ent de­mo­graph­ics? For the most part, this rise that we’re see­ing in St. Mary’s County is be­ing con­trib­uted to by var­i­ous fac­tors.”

The state pro­motes ex­pe­dited part­ner ther­apy, Brew­ster said, where if some­one comes in to be treated for a sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease, in­clud­ing gon­or­rhea and chlamy­dia, a doc­tor can pre­scribe an­tibi­otics for that per­son’s sex­ual part­ner as well with­out be­ing seen by the doc­tor.

Ac­cord­ing to the Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, “some men with gon­or­rhea may have no symp­toms at all. How­ever, men who do have symp­toms, may have: A burn­ing sen­sa­tion when uri­nat­ing; a white, yel­low or green dis­charge from the pe­nis; painful or swollen testicles (although this is less com­mon).

“Most women with gon­or­rhea do not have any symp­toms,” ac­cord­ing to the CDC. “Even when a woman has symp­toms, they are of­ten mild and can be mis­taken for a blad­der or vagi­nal in­fec­tion. Women with gon­or­rhea are at risk of de­vel­op­ing se­ri­ous com­pli­ca­tions from the in­fec­tion, even if they don’t have any symp­toms. Symp­toms in women can in­clude: Painful or burn­ing sen­sa­tion when uri­nat­ing; in­creased vagi­nal dis­charge; vagi­nal bleed­ing be­tween pe­ri­ods.”

Gon­or­rhea can­not be spread by shar­ing nee­dles, Prochnow said.

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