Gonorrhea cases in Halifax have more than doubled in 2018: NSHA
The number of new gonorrhea cases so far in 2018 reported in Nova Scotia’s central zone, which includes Halifax and West Hants, is more than double what was expected, according to the Nova Scotia Health Authority.
Dr. Trevor Arnason, the medical officer of health for the zone, said the number has slowly increased since about 2017.
“We’ve noticed a little bit of a more rapid rise in the past few months. We’re seeing more cases of gonorrhea in 2018 than we’d expect,” he said.
The expectation was for 30 to 35 cases in the central zone by the end of March.
There have been about 80 infections reported across the province so far, Arnason said.
An increase has been noted across Canada, he added.
Arnason stressed that these numbers have yet to be validated, so they can change. The validating process happens at the end of the year to clear out duplicated and/or misclassified reports.
The numbers could include potential cases of people catching the infection again.
It isn’t clear yet if there any particular groups that are affected by the recent increase.
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But numbers from previous years show adults under 30 represent a disproportionately high number of people infected with gonorrhea, Arnason said.
“That tends to reflect some of the risk behaviors that go along with gonorrhea — increased number of sexual partners, sex without using a condom,” he said.
Halifax is home to several universities and colleges, which attracts a significant number of young people.
In the past, men who have sex with men have been noted to have a higher risk of getting infected, he said.
Carmella Farahbakhsh, an educational coordinator at the South House Sexual and Gender Resource Centre, said that sex education offered in middle schools and high schools are inadequate.
Part of the focus needs to be on getting people to talk more openly about their bodies and matters, such as gonorrhea, she said.
“It is an important skill in navigating consent, it is an important skill in navigating a relationship, and it is an important skill in making sure that you’re practicing safer, transparent sexual practice,” Farahbakhsh said.
Gonorrhea symptoms can include burning sensations during urination, penile or vaginal discharge, and irritation of the genitalia. There can also be no symptoms at all.
“It’s important for people to get tested regularly,” said Arnason.
The infection is treatable, but a “superbug” strain of it is not.
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