New Gonorrhea Strain: What You Need to Know
Gonorrhea is a common bacterial infection that’s spread through sexual contact and usually cured with antibiotics. Normally, gonorrhea is something that can easily be treated with antibiotics if you test positive. But in early 2023, a new strain of gonorrhea was identified in Massachusetts. In the laboratory, this new strain has reduced response to the antibiotics used to cure the infection. This means in the future it may be much harder to treat and cure infection.
It’s serious news, but there are precautions you can take to help protect yourself and your partners. The best thing you can do is understand what steps you can take to lower your risk of exposure.
Understanding Spread and Symptoms
Gonorrhea is spread through anal, oral, or vaginal sex. Symptoms usually appear quickly, within a few weeks, and can include a burning sensation, abnormal discharge, swelling, and/or pain.
But it’s important to note that you can have gonorrhea and not show symptoms. If left untreated, it can result in serious conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and other health problems.
What You Can Do
The discovery of this new concerning strain of gonorrhea needs to be taken seriously as it is a serious public health concern. If you’re sexually active, here are some steps you can take to help protect yourself and your partners:
- Get tested regularly for all sexually transmitted infections, whether or not you have symptoms. Sexually active gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with me should get tested for gonorrhea at least every year;
- Most of the time a health care provider will test a urine sample for gonorrhea. If you have oral, anal, or vaginal sex, it is important to also collect and test samples from your throat, rectum and/or vagina.
- Increase your use of condoms when having sex;
- Consider reducing the number of sexual partners you have to limit your risk.
If you test positive
- Your health care provider will give you antibiotics to cure the infection.
- Get re-tested about 2 weeks after treatment. This is known as “test of cure”.
- Make sure your partners get tested and treated as well. If you need help with this, contact the Partner Services Program (PSP), a free service in Massachusetts that helps people who have been diagnosed with STDs and HIV to notify their partners—and get them the care they need.
How to Get Help
To combat the new strain of gonorrhea, health organizations in Massachusetts and across the country are expanding testing for gonorrhea and expanding efforts to look for increasing resistance.
If you want to get tested or find more information, contact your doctor or healthcare provider. If you don’t have a doctor, you can Find A Provider here.