N.B. sees 10-year high in new cases of gonorrhea

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New Brunswick has reported 88 new cases of gonorrhea since the beginning of 2021, the highest quarterly rate of new cases seen in the past 10 years. (Craig Chivers/CBC - image credit)
New Brunswick has reported 88 new cases of gonorrhea since the beginning of 2021, the highest quarterly rate of new cases seen in the past 10 years. (Craig Chivers/CBC - image credit)

New Brunswick's Department of Health says it's recorded a 10-year high in the quarterly rate of new gonorrhea infections.

From the beginning of this year to July 13, the province recorded 88 cases of the sexually transmitted infection. In comparison, the province on average sees 54 cases of gonorrhea annually , said Deputy Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Cristin Muecke, in an alert issued to health-care practitioners dated July 15.

"The number of reported gonorrhea cases this year so far in New Brunswick has trended upwards to the highest quarterly rate reported in ten years," Muecke said.

"This notice is to make you aware of the situation and we will provide you with updates when needed."

Muecke said of the 88 cases, 52 are in men and 36 are in women, and the median age is 31 for men and 30 for women.

The increase has been observed mainly among both men and women in the Moncton, Miramichi and Fredericton areas, and primarily among men in the Saint John area, Muecke said.

The spike in cases comes after the province declared an outbreak of gonorrhea in April 2019, citing the growing popularity of dating apps and anonymous unprotected sex.

In her alert, Muecke said the province saw periodic rate decreases in 2019 and 2020 before the recent resurgence now being reported for the first half of 2021.

Muecke said information on the risk factors for catching gonorrhea was recorded for 44 of the recent cases.

Some of the trends observed include:

  • More than half of men and three quarters of women did not report behavioural risk factors such as casual and anonymous sex partners, or lack of safe sex practices.

  • Among men, 65 per cent identified themselves as heterosexual and 4 per cent identified themselves as men who have sex with men.

  • The number of cases reported in women has increased significantly since 2020.

  • There are an equal number of cases reported in the 30-39 age group as for the 20-29 age group for both men and women.

Muecke also notes that Public Health has received reports of inappropriate or inadequate treatment of gonorrhea, adding that it's recommended to refer to the Canadian Guidelines on Sexually Transmitted Infections.

No one from the Department of Health was available for an interview Monday, but in an email statement, Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Jennifer Russell said anyone having unprotected sex is encouraged to get tested.

"I know that it sometimes takes courage to choose to get tested, but it is incredibly important you do, especially since it is not uncommon for someone to have more than one sexually transmitted infection at a time," Russell said.

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