Health officials warn that a gonorrhea outbreak is spreading in Eastern Washington and Northern Idaho.
“We are seeing the highest rate we’ve seen in the last 20 years,” said Anna Halloran, Spokane Regional Health District disease intervention specialist, in an interview the Spokesman Review.
Northwest News Networks’ Jessica Robinson reported earlier this year that Yakima County saw a 123 percent increase of cases in 2013, while the number of cases in Spokane, Benton and Kitsap counties doubled. The Spokesman Review reports that in Spokane County, numbers of identified cases jumped from 181 in 2012 to 329 in 2013.
In Idaho’s five most-northern counties, identified cases jumped 300 percent: from 15 cases in 2012 to 42 recorded last year.
Though gonorrhea isn’t at an outbreak level in Oregon, health officials say residents should still be cautious. Robinson reported that Lane County in particular quadrupled its five-year average in 2013. In 2011, 1,490 cases were reported in Oregon, with the highest rate in Multnomah County.
Women between the ages of 15 and 24 are most at risk, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Gonorrhea may not manifest symptoms in females and can lead to infertility, pelvic pain or tubal pregnancy if left untreated.
The Spokesman Review reports health officials still aren’t sure why there’s been a jump in reported cases in the area over the last year.
“We are interviewing people about where they meet people, and we are not finding a common ground,” said Jeff Lee, district epidemiologist for the Panhandle Health District.