Gonorrhea reaches outbreak levels in Kalamazoo County


    Gonorrhea reaches outbreak levels in Kalamazoo County.

    KALAMAZOO COUNTY, Mich. (NEWSCHANNEL 3) - The Kalamazoo County Health Department is in outbreak mode. That’s because Kalamazoo County ranks second in the state for gonorrhea and chlamydia.

    Health officials say it's not just on campuses but all over and they say getting tested will help curb this outbreak.

    “We're still concerned with the number of gonorrhea cases in Kalamazoo county,” said Lynne Norman with the health department. “When you compare Kalamazoo to Kent County and the state, we are significantly higher.”

    Kalamazoo is second only to Detroit when it comes to these two sexually transmitted diseases.

    “It's gone up and down but since 2013, we've been going into outbreak mode. Right now, we are back up,” said Norman.

    But why and where? Norman says while some may think the outbreak is centered around Kalamazoo’s two college campuses, that's not the case.

    “We’re seeing hotspots within the community that have high rates of STD so it's not just one area, it's multiple areas,” said Norman. “Wherever you are in the county, you need to be careful and you need to be using protection.”

    Norman says the use of dating apps like Tinder are making it more difficult to contain the outbreak.

    “When we interview people who have gonorrhea to find out who their partners are, sometimes they don't know their partners name but they know their handle on the dating app,” said Norman. “You could have the disease and not know it.”

    But Norman and her staff are working to get the word out. Norman is reaching out to local schools and coming up with creative ways to make sure people are protecting themselves.

    Back in the fall, the health department handed out condom necklaces at Kalamazoo Valley Community College.

    While it may seem odd, there's a method to the madness.

    “We’re doing more testing, more education,” said Norman.

    There are treatments for these STD’s but health officials warn that there is a strain of incurable gonorrhea in Hawaii.

    The fear is that the incurable strain may reach the continental United States pretty soon.

    Meantime, the health department does offer STD clinics.

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