Gonorrhea has historically been viewed as a lightweight STD because symptoms are generally mild, and infections have been relatively-easy to control. However, things are changing rapidly. Gonorrhea is now the most-contagious STD on the planet, and it’s becoming increasingly-resistant to antibiotics. In fact, a gonorrhea super-bug has been identified, and it’s infecting people at an alarming rate around the world.
This has public health officials worried. If a solution isn’t found soon, gonorrhea infections could replace HIV and AIDS as the next super-virus that imposes a death sentence on a large percentage of those who are exposed.
Effects to Worry About
Left untreated, gonorrhea can cause a range of health problems in men and women. Women have a greater chance of developing pelvic inflammatory disease as well as breast and cervical cancer. Men can develop a testicular problem that leads to impotence, and they also have a greater chance of developing arthritis and a chronic, painful skin condition. The biggest threat associated with exposure is that gonorrhea weakens our immune system and degrades the quality of our blood. Consequently, this can open the door to a host of other diseases and infections that can be life altering or life ending.
There’s no doubt that gonorrhea has exploded, and mutated, because of unabated sex. The new strain emerged in SE Asia, which has long-been known as a sex tourism hotspot where people from all over the world travel to have a good time. A hundred million people visit the region each year, and it is thought that about 25% of travelers are there looking to hook up. Consequently, millions of people are exposed to multiple strains of gonorrhea at any given point in time.
Due to high-concentrations of multiple gonorrhea strains, they quickly become desensitized to standard treatments. Not of the bacteria die, and they end up mutating before getting passed on to others. This causes the problem to spread, and more and more people need increasingly-higher doses of specialized antibiotics to beat back infections. There are a number of treatment levels available, but these super-strains are now becoming resistant to all of them, including those that are considered to be the last line of defense.
Another problem is that most people who become infected are asymptomatic. For those who will develop symptoms, it can take anywhere from days to months before they become noticeable. Consequently, millions of infected people are returning to their home countries and unwittingly transmitting gonorrhea to their partners in the intervening time.
What concerns public health officials even more than dealing with millions of people who have incurable gonorrhea infections is that the bacteria can mutate further and become even more-destructive. Consequently, this could very well turn out to be the type of nightmarish pandemic that only comes along once a century.
If HIV and AIDS was the scourge of the 20th century, it’s entirely possible that gonorrhea could be what we have to contend with in the 21st. If you think that you may have gonorrhea, get tested. If you know that you don’t have it, protect yourself. It’s also important to remember that gonorrhea can be passed on from mothers to their children. Unfortunately, this means that many people who may not otherwise be at risk may actually be infected and spreading it to their partners as well.
Learn more about these terrifying strains of gonorrhea and what you can do to protect yourself. The more proactive you are can help to minimize the chances of becoming infected, but you can contribute to keeping outbreaks contained as well.