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Gonorrhea – an ounce of prevention

(NC) In Canada and around the world, there have been recent reports that some strains of gonorrhea are becoming increasingly resistant to treatment. These reports are raising concerns that this once easy to treat infection could soon become incurable. In 2012, the World Health Organization issued an alert warning of an impending threat of an untreatable form of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea.

Canadians should pay attention to these warnings. In Canada, gonorrhea has been making a comeback since 1997 after more than a decade of decline: it is now the second most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in Canada, after chlamydia. According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, between 2001 and 2010, the number of gonorrhea cases almost doubled, with rates increasing in men by almost 40 per cent, and in women by 77 per cent.

The increase in rates is due to several factors including more precise tests and decreasing levels of knowledge among Canadians about the risk for contracting sexually transmitted infections, safer sex practices such as consistent condom use, and the importance of getting tested.

Because many infected individuals will have no signs or symptoms they can unknowingly transmit their infections through unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex. Getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have a sexually transmitted infection.

Undiagnosed and untreated gonorrhea can lead to an increased risk of contracting or transmitting other sexually transmitted infections as well as a host of other serious long term health consequences for both men and women including infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy.

Canadians of all ages who have unprotected sex are at risk for getting a sexually transmitted infection, including gonorrhea. To reduce your risk of getting or passing on a sexually transmitted infection, use a condom consistently and correctly when engaging in sexual activity. Be proactive about your sexual health and see your doctor or local sexual health clinic for testing. Be sure you ask to be tested specifically for sexually transmitted infections as they aren't tested for in routine blood and urine tests.

The Public Health Agency of Canada has issued new testing and treatment recommendations to help ensure that gonorrhea is treated with effective antibiotics. If you are diagnosed and treated for a sexually transmitted infection, complete all recommended treatment and follow-up testing to ensure any infection is cured. The fact that some strains of gonorrhea are becoming resistant to treatment is just another reason to have smarter, safer sex.

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