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State reports spike in sexually transmitted illnesses

POULSBO — State health officials are warning Washingtonians of a considerable rise in one particularly common infection.

The number of cases of gonorrhea across the state have spiked over the past year, with some counties reporting outbreak levels, reports the Washington State Department of Health.

The health department encountered a total of 3,127 cases of the sexually transmitted infection in 2013 through September. During that same time frame in 2012, it saw 2,350 cases. That amounts to a spike of 34 percent across the state.

“We’re working closely with local health agencies to actively monitor the rise in cases,” said Mark Aubin, a sexually transmitted disease controller for the Kitsap County Department of Health.

We’re especially concerned because of gonorrhea’s resistance to antibiotics used to treat it,” he said.

Marqise Allen, with the department of health, also notes that currently there have been no antibiotic-resistant cases of gonorrhea reported in the United States.

Kitsap County is among the more severely hit by the sexually transmitted infection with a spike of 57 percent in cases of gonorrhea between 2012 and 2013. The county is considered at an outbreak level, meaning the recent rate jump is well beyond its average number of cases over the past six quarters.

It breaks down to 46 cases in 2012, and 72 in 2013. The numbers reflect a time frame between January and September during both years. The infection has equally affect men and women; 38 men and 38 women.

Kitsap’s young adults have been hit the hardest. A total of 38 cases were reported for ages 20 through 29.

Teenagers between the ages of 15 and 19 had eight cases. People between the ages of 30 and 39 had 16 cases reported, and 14 cases of the infection were reported for people above the age of 40.

Kitsap is on par with neighboring Pierce County, which saw an increase of 52 percent. Pierce County had 467 cases in 2012, and 711 in 2013, between the January to September time frame.

Kitsap’s rural neighbors faired better, with Jefferson County reporting three cases in 2013, and Mason County reporting 11 cases. Mason also reported 11 cases in 2012, therefore showing no increase.

The county’s neighbor across the Puget Sound showed an increase of 21 percent. King County reported 1,085 cases in 2012, and 1,312 in 2013.

The numbers are up in most areas of the state, regardless of urban and rural boundaries. Five counties, however, have seen harsher numbers. Kitsap County is among that list, along with Spokane, Yakima, Thurston and Benton counties.

Rates of the infection have increased since 2010, the department reports, among all ages groups. Young adults, however, are the largest infected group.

The infection is spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner. It is the second most commonly spread infection in the state, after chlamydia. The health department notes that the infection often present no symptoms, but long-term health concerns can result if the infection is left untreated.

“It’s one of those STIs that doesn’t necessarily come with symptoms,” said Marqise Allen, with the department of health. “So it’s difficult to discover if a person has it. It’s especially important with women because it can lead pelvic inflammatory disease, which leads to infertility.”

“It’s crucial to get tested if you are sexually active,” he said.

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