Contact your Department of Public Health

Follow your Department of Public Health on DPH Facebook Page or DPH Twitter Site


Gonorrhea Communicable Diseases Facts


Gonorrhea is one of the most common communicable diseases in the United States, with about 165,000 cases reported annually. In St. Louis County, gonorrhea incidence has declined steadily since 1990 when 3401 cases were reported. During 2001, though, 1864 cases were reported among County residents, a 7.7% increase from the year 2000. Almost half of these cases occurred among persons age 22 or younger.

What is Gonorrhea (gone-or-ee-ah)?

Gonorrhea is a bacterial infection caused by Neisseria gonorrhoeae. This germ likes to grow in warm, moist areas like the cervix, uterus, and fallopian tubes in women. It can also grow in the mouth, throat, anus, and urethra of males and females.

How is gonorrhea spread?

It is usually passed during oral, vaginal, or anal sexual contact. Gonorrhea can also be passed from an infected woman to her baby during childbirth.

What are symptoms of gonorrhea?

If a person has symptoms, they usually appear in the first week after exposure to gonorrhea, but it may take as long as a month to show symptoms. Many people show no symptoms at all.

About 80% of females have no initial symptoms, but they may experience:

  • painful or burning feeling when they urinate
  • yellow vaginal discharge
  • bloody discharge
  • abdominal pain

About 80% of males have some symptoms, including:

  • burning sensation when they urinate
  • yellowish discharge from the penis
  • painful or swollen testicles

It is important to remember that about 20% of males with gonorrhea have no initial symptoms.

Males or females: Gonorrhea infection in the rectum may cause discharge, anal itching, soreness, bleeding or pain. Gonorrhea infection in the throat usually has no symptoms.

*If males or females get a gonorrheal infection in their throat they usually do not show symptoms.

How serious is gonorrhea?

If gonorrhea is not treated, the bacteria can spread to the bloodstream and infect the joints, heart valves, or brain. The most common complication is infection of the fallopian tubes in women, a condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Gonorrhea can also cause scar tissue to develop and lead to infertility in both men and women.

How is gonorrhea diagnosed?

Usually, a swab is taken from the genital, rectal, or throat areas. Sometimes, secretions from the genital area are immediately examined with a microscope for the germ that causes gonorrhea. Newer tests allow the identification of gonorrhea from urine samples. Talk to your health care provider about which test is best for you.

Is gonorrhea curable and how do you cure it?

Yes, gonorrhea is curable. Antibiotics are needed to cure this infection. After taking the required antibiotics, your body will be rid of the infection within 10-14 days. You can still spread this disease while you are taking your medication.

Can you become immune to gonorrhea?

No. Getting treated once for gonorrhea does not prevent further infections.

Can you have other sexually transmitted diseases at the same time?

Yes, you can have other sexually transmitted diseases at the same time as you have gonorrhea.

Does the medicine for gonorrhea treat other sexually transmitted diseases?

Do not assume that treatment for gonorrhea will cure other STDs. Different infections require different medications and dosages.

Where can I learn more information about gonorrhea?

The following resources can be contacted for further information relating to gonorrhea. National STD and AIDS hotlines at 1-800-342-2437 or 1-800-227-8922. These hotlines are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. For more information you may use the following links:,, and