The Anne Arundel County Department of Health is stepping up its campaign to fight gonorrhea after noticing an alarming increase in reported cases, the department announced yesterday.
Reported cases have already surpassed last year's total, said Lisa Purvis, county director of communicable disease.
As of July 1, 210 cases of gonorrhea, an infectious venereal disease, had been reported, she said. There were 204 cases reported last year.
To combat the trend, the department will offer free testing at clinics and free fact guides about the disease and its symptoms.
More than 700 doctors in the county have been told about the increase, Ms. Purvis said.
Although gonorrhea had been on the decline in the 1980s, Ms. Purvis said a number of factors have led to the increase in cases of the disease during the past two years.
"It seems reasonable to assume that people are becoming blase about condoms," she said. "Plus, we don't know how sexually active people are."
Ms. Purvis also attributed the increase partly to regular visits to doctors among women.
"We believe screening takes place more often with women than men [because] one would assume that a reasonable underlying factor is that women are screened more often by their [obstetrician/gynecologist]," she said.
About 49 percent of the reported gonorrhea cases occurred in people between ages 15 and 25, Ms. Purvis said.
Half were in Annapolis with the rest spread throughout the county.
An upward trend in gonorrhea cases also is being reported nationally.
Thirteen other states have reported increases, Ms. Purvis said.
"People aren't taking it as seriously as HIV and AIDS, but it has caused a lot of problems," she said. "It's a serious thing."
Ms. Purvis said it is easy to mistake the symptoms of gonorrhea for other ailments.
One common symptom is a sore throat. Women could experience cramping that could be mistakenly attributed to the menstrual cycle, she said.
For information on gonorrhea, call the Department of Health at 222-7176.