FREDERICTON (GNB) – An increase in the number of gonorrhea cases in the province has prompted the chief medical officer of health, Dr. Jennifer Russell, to declare a provincial outbreak and remind New Brunswickers about the importance of safe sex practices.

“We encourage people who are having unprotected sex to get tested,” said Russell. “It is not unusual for individuals who have a sexually transmitted infection to have more than one infection at the same time. HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are all examples of these infections.”

A total of 96 gonorrhea cases were reported to Regional Public Health in 2018. The annual average over the previous five years was 54 cases. During the first quarter of this year, 20 cases of gonorrhea were reported in the province. The average during the same period over the previous five years was 12 cases.

People with multiple sexual partners may have been exposed to gonorrhea without their knowledge. Sexually transmitted infections, sometimes called sexually transmitted diseases, are caused by a bacteria, virus or parasite passed from one person to another through unprotected sexual contact.

“Social media tools enable people to communicate quickly to arrange anonymous sexual encounters, resulting in increased difficulty in tracking sexually transmitted infections,” said Russell. “When people don’t know their sexual partners’ identities, it is difficult to contact those partners for followup testing and treatment.”

If left untreated, sexually transmitted infections can have lasting effects on a person’s health and fertility. People who believe they may have been exposed to such infections should consult their doctor or a Public Health office, even if symptoms are not present.

“Testing for sexually transmitted infections should be part of everyone’s routine health checkups,” said Russell. “Getting tested and treated appropriately can prevent further complications such as infertility. It also helps to stop the transmission of the disease to someone else.”