By Brittany Dekote
Washtenaw County Public Health reported that, In 2016, 423 Washtenaw County residents were diagnosed with gonorrhea infection. Nearly a third of those infected came from the 48197 zip code, the home of EMU and parts of Ypsilanti.
Heather Vaquera, the prevention specialist at Washtenaw County Public Health, told the Voice that this is the highest number of gonorrhea infections in the county recorded in 25 years. To date in 2017, there has been an increase of cases in 15-19 year olds from 18 percent of the total new cases, to 24 percent.
Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection that can cause burning urination and greenish discharge from sexual organs, though it is often asymptomatic. If left untreated, it can cause long term pelvic pain, increased risk of ectopic (tubal) pregnancies in women, and sometimes infertility for both sexes.
There has also been an increase in Chlamydia rates; the Voice reported last year that these rates were at a 10 year high.
The Corner Health Center is located in the 48197 area, and their mission is to “provide judgement-free, high-quality, affordable health services to young people aged 12 through 25.” According to Corner Health’s Youth Development and Outreach coordinator, Morghan Williams, this age range is some of the most at risk for these diseases.
“Many of the cases we see are repeat cases, where one partner gets treated, but an asymptomatic partner doesn’t get tested and doesn’t know they have it, and gives it right back to the treated partner,” said WIlliams.
Williams also noted the importance of constant testing, use of protection, and talking with one’s partners to slow the spread. Corner Health supplies free condoms and dental dams to anyone who comes through their doors, will test for and prescribe medication for STIs, and even offers counseling on how to discuss your diagnosis with your partner.
These services are also offered at Washtenaw County Public Health’s clinic, along with confidential partner notification.
One worry that also comes with the rise in infection rates is a growing prevalence of antibiotic resistant gonorrhea, which is much more difficult to treat. According to Susan Cerniglia, communications manager for Washtenaw County Public Health, there haven’t been any cases in the county.
“Work is being done to prevent antibiotic resistance at the state level, adjustments to treatment for gonorrhea and monitoring of cases. The state is working with people across the country,” said Cerniglia.
Those infected with gonorrhea should make sure to complete their scheduled dose of medicine, and wait at least seven days after finishing all medications before having sex, to avoid getting infected with gonorrhea again or spreading gonorrhea to their partner(s).