What are they doing in Alaska? Gonorrhea rate skyrockets

State health officials are concerned that Alaska gonorrhea rates, which held steady for years, suddenly jumped by 69 percent in 2009 -- the biggest one-year rise since the 1970s, said Susan Jones of Alaska's Department of Health and Social Services.

There were 997 cases reported last year, for a rate of 144 cases per 100,000 people. In 2008, the rate was 85 per 100,000 people.

Alaska Natives and people living in Southwest Alaska have the highest rates, according to the new numbers. Two-thirds of cases occurred in Alaska Natives.

But the epidemic is almost statewide, with every area except Interior Alaska experiencing a rise, said Jones, who manages the states HIV and sexually transmitted disease program. The state Division of Public Health published a bulletin Tuesday to get the word out.

Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease that can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility and failed pregnancies in women, eye infections in newborns, and infections in men.

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