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GONORRHEA


​THE BASICS:

What is gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is a Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) caused by a bacterium (germ).  This is the second most common STI in Boston.

How can a person get gonorrhea?
Gonorrhea is spread when someone has vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who is infected. Gonorrhea can also be passed from mother to child during birth. It is passed through vaginal fluids and semen.

Who can get gonorrhea?
Anyone who is sexually active can get gonorrhea. Having unprotected sex (sex without a condom) increases the chance of getting gonorrhea. In Boston, women under 24 years of age have the highest rates of gonorrhea.

SYMPTOMS:

Many people do not have symptoms. ​If symptoms do occur, they usually start 2 days after being infected, but can take longer.  For those who do have symptoms, the most common ones are:

For Women:

  • Unusual or increased discharge (yellowish or whitish fluid) from the vagina 
  • Pain and/or burning when she pees or during sex 
  • Pain in the stomach or back 
  • Bleeding even when it’s not her period 
  • In more serious infections, fever
  • Symptoms from anal infection may cause pain, itching, discharge or bleeding from the rectum (bum) and painful bowel movements. An oral infection may cause a red sore throat

For Men:

  • Unusual discharge (thick white or watery fluid) coming from the penis 
  • Pain and/or burning when he pees or urge to pee a lot 
  • Less common symptoms include:  
  • Heavy feeling and/or pain in the testicles 
  • Symptoms from anal infection may cause pain, itching, discharge or bleeding from the rectum (bum) and painful bowel movements. An oral infection may cause a red sore throat

How long can an infected person spread gonorrhea?
A person can spread gonorrhea to others from the time they become infected (by having unprotected sex with an infected partner) until they are treated. A person can spread gonorrhea to others even if they do not have symptoms. If you are taking medicine, do not have sex for 7 days after your treatment is over. It is important to know that you can get infected with gonorrhea many times.

TESTING:

How can I find out if I have gonorrhea?
The only way to know for sure if you have gonorrhea is to get tested. A healthcare provider may ask for a urine (pee) sample or may wipe the infected area with a swab to test for gonorrhea. Many people with gonorrhea also have Chlamydia and should be tested and treated for both.

How often should I be tested?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends testing for:

  • All sexually active women under 25 and, 
  • People at high risk, including:  
    • Those who have had unprotected sex, sex with multiple partners, or sex with a new partner  
    • All pregnant women  
    • 1 to 3 months after treatment for a Sexually Transmitted Infection  
    • ​​Every time you have a new partner if you are unsure of their status 
To find a place to get tested near you, click here​ or call the Mayor's Health Line (MHL) at 617-534-5050 and Toll-Free: 1-800-847-0710


TREATMENT:

Can gonorrhea be treated?
Yes, gonorrhea is easily treated with either pills or a shot. A single dose of antibiotics can cure most cases of gonorrhea. See your healthcare provider again if you still have symptoms after you have taken your medicine.

Should my partner get treated?
Recent (within the last 60 days) or regular sex partners must be treated before having sex again so it is best to be treated at the same time. It is important to know that you can get infected with gonorrhea many times.

Related Health Problems:
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause very serious health problems. Women can develop Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) which can cause infertility (unable to have children). Men can develop epididymitis. Gonorrhea can also increase your chances of getting other sexually transmitted infections, such as HIV or Chlamydia.​

​For more information, please see​ our full fact sheet in multiple languages here.

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Boston Public Health Commission
1010 Massachusetts Ave, 6th Floor, Boston, MA 02118.
Phone:(617) 534-5395 Email: info@bphc.org