Gonorrhea is a preventable and curable disease that is caused by a bacteria known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This infection is spread mainly through sexual activity such as vaginal, oral and anal sex. It is more commonly reported among young people, although it affects individuals of all ages. 

How does one contract gonorrhea? 
Gonorrhea is transmitted through sexual contact with the genitals; vagina, penis, mouth, or anus of an infected partner. It can also be transmitted or acquired by having genitalia contact even without ejaculation.

Gonorrhea can also be spread vertically from a mother to her baby during childbirth. 

Symptoms of gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is known to cause several symptoms in the genitals, anus or throat. Men and women may experience a range of symptoms which include;
Painful/burning urination 
White, yellow or greenish discharge from the penis
Painful or swollen testes
Vaginal discharge
Vaginal bleeding especially during sexual intercourse
Itching around genitals 
Soreness around genital areas
Painful bowel movements
Sore throat and redness in throat infections

The most common symptom of vertical gonorrhea in newborns is eye infection, causing redness, pain, soreness, ulcers and tearing. 

How soon do symptoms show?
Symptoms of gonorrhea usually manifest between one to fourteen (1–14) days after contracting the infection. This however depends on the virulence of the infection and the immunity of the host.

The importance of contact tracing
Contact tracing in STIs simply refers to notifying partners of individuals with confirmed STI cases. This also includes testing and treating such partners accordingly.

Every partner must be carefully traced back to at least two months. This is important because of the following;

  • Containing the infection from further spreading 
  • Informing victims who may not be aware of their exposure
  • Early treatment of confirmed cases

The diagnosing physician is responsible for initiating this process of contact tracing.

Untreated or poorly treated gonorrhea infections can lead to complications such as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) and ectopic pregnancy in women. Complications in men include scrotal swelling and urethral stricture.

A major complication is infertility which can occur in both men and women with improperly treated or untreated gonorrhea. A common complication of eye infection in newborns (neonatal conjunctivitis) could result in blindness.

It is important to emphasize support for such patients from relations and the healthcare team due to the stigmatization faced by patients.

How To Prevent Gonorrhea

Just as with most infections, prevention is very feasible, especially through sexual hygiene. Most cases of gonorrhea can be prevented with consistent safe sexual practices through correct condom use in all sexual encounters. 

There are no specific vaccines for the prevention of gonorrhea.

However, the WHO reported that studies are showing promising results with the use of a meningococcal type B vaccine (4CMenB) that seems to offer cross-protection against gonorrhea.

Do well to visit a doctor as soon as you notice any strange signs or symptoms or you suspect an STI.

Kemuel Kefas

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