The youngest person ever to receive a confirmed case of gonorrhea in Los Angeles County may not be the last.
An 11-year-old girl from Long Beach, Calif., may have caught the sexually transmitted disease from a friend. The girl with the infection in her throat, believed to be a case of non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, was tested for gonorrhea and found to be positive.
“Gonorrhea is a common sexually transmitted disease, but not everyone that’s infected becomes ill,” Los Angeles County Department of Public Health Medical Director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said in a statement. “However, healthy people infected with gonorrhea may remain unknowingly infected and transmit it to others. It’s important to notify the physician and all appropriate treatment, including medications, can help stop the disease’s progression.”
The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health says that without appropriate treatment the infection can be spread by sex. Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection, making it easier to treat with the medications available today.
Last year, for the first time in more than three decades, Los Angeles County saw a significant increase in chlamydia infections, with 56 percent of cases being drug-resistant STDs, such as gonorrhea and trichomoniasis.
While sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea continue to disproportionately affect women and young people, a CDC report issued in 2017 said that young men are also at risk for HIV infections, with 1,800 boys and young men newly infected with the virus in 2016.
Although gonorrhea is still transmitted through sexual contact, any sexual partner can become infected. “Although gonorrhea is acquired through contact with an infected person, it can be passed on even if you have not had sex with an infected person,” says the CDC. “Gonorrhea is spread in vaginal, oral, and anal sex. It can also be transmitted through contact with infected blood, breast milk, or other infected bodily fluids.”
Side effects for gonorrhea include cramps, fever, nausea, and sometimes pain in the anal or vaginal region. Frequent use of condoms can also prevent infection. While pregnant women can contract the STD in utero, the CDC recommends that women talk to their healthcare provider if they are concerned.