Gonorrhea cases surge in Yakima County

YAKIMA COUNTY, Wash. -- It's not a topic people want to talk about, but gonorrhea infections are surging in Yakima County. The number of cases last year more than doubled. KIMA spoke with local public health officials about what's being done and how you can protect yourself.

Gonorrhea was once considered fairly controlled. But, not anymore.

Two years ago, 81 cases of gonorrhea were reported in Yakima County. That number more than doubled the next year. Now, Yakima County's already on track to beat that this year, with 154 cases in the first half of 2014.

Last year's numbers put Yakima County as the fourth highest in the state for the infection rate.

"We see that this is definitely a problem and we're putting more resources toward that problem," said Yakima Health District nurse, David Miller.

The Yakima Health District has hired another full-time nurse to contact people who may have been infected and urge them to get tested. The District is also making local doctors aware of the gonorrhea problem, through bulletins and face-to-face visits.

The disease is passed during sex. Symptoms can include discharge or a burning sensation.

But, you may have no symptoms at all. And, the infection brings real dangers.

"The biggest one would be infertility," said Miller.

Most cases of gonorrhea in Yakima County were found among 20 to 24-year-olds. So, KIMA went to a college campus to ask students what they make of the numbers.

"It does worry me a lot."

"John Doe" asked that we not show his face. He said sticking to one partner at a time could help keep the disease in check.

"You can't just really throw yourself out to somebody that you don't even really know. Because, you don't know where they're from, where they've been or where they're going."

Advice from the medical community is more direct.

"Using condoms every time you have a sexual encounter, any kind of sex."

To prevent the growing problem of gonorrhea.

Gonorrhea infections still rank behind the number of chlamydia cases in Yakima County. There were almost 1,400 of those last year.