Amid spike in recent cases, a gonorrhea “superbug” has been found. Here’s what you need to know

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Yen Feng

Yen Feng

Yen is a freelance editor and yoga instructor at on Instagram/TikTok and @yenyogasg on Telegram.


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Many people in England and around the world are feeling anxious about the new strain of the novel coronavirus – and with good reason. The new variant from the UK is said to be 50% more infectious – though, the symptoms appear to be the same.

But there is another virus on the rise in the UK, and it’s one that has soared 26% in a year since 2018 – its highest level since records began in 1918, according to Public Health England. Officials say the spike is due largely to gay and bisexual man, though cases have been up for heterosexual men and women as well.

A similar spike is being observed in the US, where there is talk of a “super gonorrhea“, due to an overuse of antibiotics in treating Covid-19.

What is gonorrhea, and how do you treat it? Here’s what you need to know.

What is gonorrhea?

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) that can infect both men and women. It can cause infections in the genitals, rectum, and throat. It is a very common infection, especially among young people ages 15-24 years.

How is gonorrhea spread?

Through sexual activity – you can get gonorrhea by having anal or oral sex with someone who has gonorrhea.

How do I reduce my risk of getting gonorrhea?

Not to be Captain Obvious here, but the only foolproof way to avoid STDs is to not have anal or oral sex. That includes vaginal for those of you who are straight or bi. If you are sexually active, please use condoms, and us it the right way. Of course, another way to stay safe is be in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested and has negative STD test results.

How do I know if I have gonorrhea?

Some people with gonorrhea may have no symptoms at all. However, if they do, it typically manifests in the following way:

  • A burning sensation when urinating;
  • A white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis;
  • Painful or swollen testicles (although this is less common).

Rectal infections may either cause no symptoms or cause symptoms in both men and women that may include:

  • Discharge;
  • Anal itching;
  • Soreness;
  • Bleeding;
  • Painful bowel movements.

If you have any of these symptoms, get thee to a doctor straightaway! You should be examined by your doctor and the same goes for your partner, if you notice that he has an unusual sore, a smelly discharge, or if he experiences a burning sensation when urinating.

OK, so what’s the treatment for gonorrhea?

You’ll have to see a doctor to be prescribed the right medication. Unfortunately, while antibiotics have successfully treated it for decades, gonorrhea has also developed resistance to nearly every drug used for its treatment. Do also note that although medication will stop the infection, it will not repair any permanent damage done by the disease.

Generally speaking, a test-of-cure – follow-up testing to be sure the infection was treated successfully – is not needed for genital and rectal infections. However, if your symptoms continue for more than a few days after receiving treatment, you should definitely return to your doctor to be reevaluated.

Because re-infection is common, you should also get retested three months after treatment of the initial infection, just to be on the safe side.

Read more about how syphilis is on the rise among gay men.

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