If the recent headlines about the new sex superbug had you considering a chastity belt, take a deep breath.
Yes, it was widely reported this week that officials had identified a case of H041, a strain of gonorrhea discovered in 2009 that is known to be incurable by any antibiotics currently on the market. The worry is that an antibiotic-resistant strain of the highly contagious sexually transmitted disease could spread quickly, especially since carriers often show no symptoms and therefore don't get tested.
However (this is where that deep breath comes in), while the germ does exist, the report of a current case of H041 was false (and the AP later pulled the story). That said, scientists say that the scare highlights a very important truth about the disease: It mutates fast and unless we come up with a new antibiotic, it may end up being totally resistant in the near future—as in just a year or two, experts say.
Once the superbug gets into the general population it has the potential to "be a lot worse than AIDS in the short run because the bacteria is more aggressive and will affect more people quickly," Alan Christianson, a doctor of naturopathic medicine, told CNBC. According to Christianson, the strain is so dangerous that contracting it could lead to septic shock and death in a matter of days.
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In response, the National Coalition for STD Directors has asked Congress to target nearly $54 million in immediate funding to help find an antibiotic for H041 and to conduct an education and public awareness campaign, CNCB reported.
The first step in fighting this disease is getting people to find out if they have it before spreading it to other sexual partners. The active symptoms of the disease—abnormal discharge, pain urinating, fever—are fairly easy to recognize and often painful enough to drive the person to seek medical attention. The problem is that about half of sufferers don't show any symptoms at all and therefore may unknowingly spread the disease. The only solution is to get yourself and and any new partner tested for it.
The second step is getting people to practice safe sex every time—advice we all know but that many don't follow. Use condoms and don't have sex with anyone showing symptoms, the Mayo Clinic says. No need for a chastity belt—unless you're into that kind of thing.