ROCK FALLS – Parties resulting in anonymous sex appear to be driving a spike in gonorrhea cases, the Whiteside County Health Department says.
In the first 3 months of this year, more cases of the sexually transmitted disease have been reported than in all of 2018, said Emily Davy-Gonzalez, registered nurse for infectious diseases for the health department.
There seems to be no common reason for why cases have soared, either.
"There's not any specific causes. We ask them for partner information, and they say they were at parties having anonymous sex," Davy-Gonzalez said. "It's hard to follow up then, because they don't know anyone's name or contact information."
Twenty-one cases have been reported to the health department this year; the average for an entire year usually is only 20. That a 375 percent increase from the year before, the department said in a news release.
Many of those infected reported having anonymous sex with people coming to the area from Rockford and Chicago to attend parties, the release said.
Whether those parties involve drugs or cash in exchange for sex is difficult to determine if those reporting the infection are not willing to share such information.
"There's no connection there yet, and they don't really say what kind of parties they are, where they were or anything like that," Davy-Gonzalez said.
Eight cases have been reported in people ages 19 to 25, and seven in ages 26 to 34. The rest are either younger than 18 or older than 35.
The group has twice as many men that women, likely because the symptoms of burning and discharge are worse, making them more likely to seek treatment, the release said.
Women are less likely to have active symptoms.
At this point, all local health officials can do is keep reminding patients to practice safe sex. Free condoms also are available at the Community Health Clinic at 1300 W. Second St., no questions asked.
"They're coming in for testing and we treat them right away and counsel them," said Davy-Gonzalez, who expects the number of cases to continue to increase as more people become aware of the symptoms.
Anyone who has had anonymous and/or unprotected sex should call their physician or the county's infectious disease department for testing and antibiotic treatment, she said.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause permanent and life-threatening problems.
Know the symptoms
The symptoms of gonorrhea in men are a burning sensation when urinating, a white, yellow or green discharge from the penis and painful or swollen testicles.
Women may experience no symptoms, or they may feel a burning sensation when urinating, or feel like they may have a urinary tract infection.
If left untreated, gonorrhea can cause permanent, life-threatening problems, which is why anyone who has had unprotected sex, a change in sex partners or is experiencing any of the symptoms should get tested immediately, either through a private physician, or your county health department.
Find Whiteside CHC on Facebook or call the Whiteside County Community Health Clinic at 815-626-230, ext. 1232 for a confidential appointment or more information.
Patients do not have to be resident of Whiteside County, and are charged for services based on their ability to pay.
The clinic, at 1300 W. Second St. in Rock Falls, also distributes free condoms, no questions asked.