Snohomish County reports historic spike in gonorrhea cases

EVERETT, Wash. -- An historic spike in Snohomish County gonorrhea cases has reached "outbreak levels," according to health officials.

A total of 249 county residents were diagnosed with gonorrhea in 2013, which represents a nearly 50 percent increase from the previous year, according to the Snohomish Health District.

The steep jump represents the highest incidence of gonorrhea in the county's history. About a third of the new gonorrhea cases were in people ages 15- to 24-years old, health officials say.

"Gonorrhea is a serious disease," the health district's Dr. Gary Goldbaum said in a news release. "Fortunately, antibiotic treatment is effective and accessible. However, it is far better to avoid infection in the first place. Take precautions to keep the bacteria from spreading."

Gonorrhea rates statewide have climbed steadily since 2010, but state health officials are unable to pinpoint the specific causes. Several counties, including Snohomish County, have reached outbreak levels of the disease, according to health officials.

Left untreated, the sexually transmitted disease can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and higher risk of HIV transmission.