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Gonorrhea Cases Surging in Utah

Utah is experiencing a surge in gonorrhea cases, and health officials are attempting to combat it.

According to the Utah Department of Health, gonorrhea diagnoses rose 393 percent between 2011 and 2014. Cases of the sexually transmitted disease increased 717 percent among women and 296 percent among men. The age groups that saw the biggest increase in cases were 15- to 25-year-olds and 30- to 34-year-olds.

"We're certainly not the only place in the country seeing a rise in cases," says Lynn Beltran, from the Salt Lake County Health Department. "We went from having 200 cases a year to 1,000 cases in 2015, and 40 percent of those are female."

Half of affected women show no symptoms. Some women may mistake gonorrhea symptoms for a bladder or vaginal infection.

Gonorrhea symptoms include a painful or burning sensation when urinating. Men may experience a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis. Women may experience increased vaginal discharge or vaginal bleeding between periods.

Beltran says incidences of gonorrhea are on the rise because "attitudes about sex have become more liberal. People are not taking sexual well-being as seriously as they used to. They aren't afraid of STDs anymore."

She recommends that people get tested frequently and "take that seriously." The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends annual testing.

Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea. To reduce risk, the CDC says you should use latex condoms every time you have sex and limit sexual activity to a monogamous relationship. "Pick one partner," says John Kriesel, MD, an infectious disease specialist at University of Utah Health.

Gonorrhea can cause infections in the genitals, rectum and throat. It can be treated with antibiotics. If left untreated, Kriesel says, it can lead to infertility in women and urethritis, epididymitis or even sterility in men.

The Utah Department of Health offers low-cost testing for gonorrhea and chlamydia and free treatment.