Gonorrhea cases rise in Ottawa due to more unprotected sex

The number of gonorrhea cases in Ottawa jumped at the end of 2013, alarming health officials who believe too many people under 30 years old are having unprotected sex.

More unprotected sex among people 15 to 29 leads to jump in cases, Ottawa Public Health says

Students at the University of Ottawa were on hand to share tips on safe sex practices as the number of cases of gonorrhea rose at the end of 2013. (Laurie Fagan/CBC)

The number of people contracting gonorrhea in Ottawa jumped at the end of 2013, which has alarmed public health officials who are trying to quash any trend that could arise.

Between October and December, there were 107 reported cases of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) in Ottawa, according to Ottawa Public Health. The first nine months of the year saw only 50 cases, officials added.

The increased occurrence has happened across Ontario, health officials said, but Gatineau has not seen a rise in cases.

There is no specific reason why, but officials stopped in to the University of Ottawa on Tuesday to nip it in the bud, sharing tips on safe sex practices.

Recent studies have raised concerns about the spread of drug-resistant gonorrhea in Ontario. (iStock)

They handed out condoms and pamphlets, which struck a chord with students like second-year student Marisa Sauret.

“I actually got lip herpes, so I don't want to get any other kind of herpes,” she said. “So it's important to have condoms when you're having sex.”

If gonorrhea is not treated, it can cause sterility in men and women.

Many show no gonorrhea symptoms

Health officials are concerned because they believe many people are not using condoms, even though they are free across the city. There’s also concern that people aren’t getting tested and therefore, aren’t getting treated for the STI.

What gonorrhea infection can cause

Short term

PID, epididymitis, ​Reiter’s Syndrome, disseminated infection.

Long term

Infertility, chronic pelvic pain, ectopic pregnancy.

Dr. Isra Levy, the Medical Officer of Health at Ottawa Public Health, said the jump in gonorrhea cases primarily exists in the age range of 15 to 29 years old.

Health officials have noticed a troubling trend in the cases they have caught.

“More cases of gonorrhea are showing up in what we call multi-drug resistant … about 10 per cent are not responding to the drugs we've used historically,” said Levy.

Thirty per cent of men and up to 50 per cent of women who are infected with gonorrhea never show symptoms, which makes it difficult for health officials to track.

They said the best way treat the infection is for sexually active people to get tested regularly. After treatment, people also can’t have sex for seven days.