The rate of the sexually transmitted disease gonorrhea rose 42 percent in five years in eight western U.S. states, while other regions reported declines, a new report says.
The states -- Alaska, California, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah and Washington -- had historically seen lower rates than other regions, said the U.S. Centers for Disease Control in a weekly report released today.
The rate in the South declined by 22 percent, the Northeast rate fell 16 percent and the Midwest rate dropped 5 percent during the period surveyed.
Better testing methods and actual increases in the number of people getting the disease may have contributed to the rise.
Increased rates were shown in both sexes and in most age and racial and ethnic groups. There was also an increase in men with symptoms of gonorrhea seeking treatment, the report said.
"Unlike recent increases in syphilis, case report data indicate that the increases in reported gonorrhea rates do not appear to be confined predominantly to increases among men who have sex with men," the report said.
Gonorrhea symptoms include discharge and painful or difficulty urinating. Women often have no symptoms at all. People with gonorrhea are more at risk of HIV, pelvic inflammatory disease, and infertility, the report said.
In the study, researchers examined reports from U.S. states that found increased gonorrhea rates greater than 25 percent from 2000 to 2005, and had more than 500 cases in 2005. They found that the eight Western states met the criteria.
They also found that the states combined had increased gonorrhea tests by 87 percent during that time, which may have contributed to the increased rate. That's compared with a 14 percent testing increase in eight non-Western states, the CDC said.
Researchers urged health departments and providers to remain vigilant to a rise of gonorrhea cases and to test people with the disease every three months to prevent re-infection.