A rare type of gonorrhea – one not seen in 30 years - is gripping the state of Michigan, and health officials are quickly moving to contain it.
According to health officials, there are four definite cases of disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI) in Kalamazoo County, a fifth in St. Joseph County and an unconfirmed sixth case in Calhoun County.
Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Public Health Nurse Supervisor Becky Harrison said it appears DGI is isolated to Michigan (for now). However, health officials throughout the nation are growing concerned.
Health Department Northwest Michigan Medical Director Dr. Joshua Meyerson said the agency is keeping tabs on the DGI outbreak. And, while there have been no documented cases in Ostego, Emmet, Charlevoix and Antrim counties, there is still some concern.
Kalamazoo County officials are working with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, investigating the outbreak. There is no known cause for it, and nothing indicating if the disease is contained or still going to spread.
Michigan Department of Health and Human Services Public Information Officer Lynn Sutfin said DGI begins after gonorrhea is left untreated. Most reasons gonorrhea goes untreated is that it’s often undiagnosed. Any symptoms women have is often mistaken for a bladder infection.
DGI is not the same as your usual gonorrhea. Symptoms of DGI, which caused by bacteria that can be transmitted during sex, include swelling, joint pain, chills, fever, etc.
Harrison said Kalamazoo County saw a 20 percent rise in gonorrhea cases between 2017 and 2018.
One reason for the spike in STDs is technology – moreover the invention and use of dating apps that make it easier for anonymous individuals to hook up with someone. This also makes it harder to track partners and inform them of a diagnosis.
DGI is treated with antibiotics used with gonorrhea, but for an extended period of time (although it’s not known for how long the antibiotics must be taken to cure the disease). For the moment, Harrison said, there are no reported cases of antibiotic-resistant DGI, but it’s a concern.
Written by Mark Riegel, MD
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