Gonorrhea cases have skyrocketed in Washington state over the last year and Department of Health experts don't know why.
The DOH reports cases of the second most common sexually transmitted disease have soared 34 percent, with 3,137 cases reported through September 2013, compared to 2,350 during the same time last year.
Rates have been increasing steadily since 2010, says Mark Aubin, STD controller with the DOH.
"We're working closely with local health agencies to actively monitor the rise in cases. We're especially concerned because of gonorrhea's resistance to antibiotics used to treat it," Aubin says.
The jump has occurred among men and women in most age groups, but young adults remain the most affected. While cases are up statewide in both rural and urban counties, Kitsap, Thurston, Spokane, Yakima, and Benton counties are at what the DOH classifies as outbreak levels.
"We're working with health officials in all the counties to get information out to the providers, to interview more cases and to create greater awareness about this," Aubin says.
The disease is spread through unprotected sex.
"It is really important for people to get screened for this STD because in many cases in woman, it's asymptomatic. They don't have any symptoms at all."
Prevention methods include consistent and correct use of condoms, partner treatment, mutual monogamy and abstinence, Aubin says.