"Super" usually conjures images of heroes in capes, but in the case of "super bugs," it's anything but a good thing. What it really means is that that particular disease is close to being untreatable with current methods. (Here's why Your Risk Of STDs Is Way Higher Than You Think.)
And we can't think of any case where the use of the word "super" is more frightening than when it comes to sexually transmitted infections.
Super-gonorrhea is the latest in a series of antibiotic-resistant diseases causing concern. Late last year the Centers for Disease Control issued a warning about new super strains of chlamydia (in fact, they actually called it an "epidemic"), and now they've added gonorrhea to the list. Most people think of these two infections as relatively minor—at least they're not HIV or syphilis, right? But if they can't be treated with our current antibiotics, they can be every bit as deadly as scarier diseases.
"Neisseria (N.) gonorrhoeae, the bacteria that cause the STD gonorrhea, has developed resistance to nearly all of the antibiotics used for gonorrhea treatment. We are currently down to one last effective class of antibiotics, cephalosporins, to treat this common infection," the CDC said in their report on the disease. That single treatment combines two antibiotics, one administered via a shot and the other taken orally. But countries, including the U.S. and Britain, have recently been finding strains that they fear won't respond to even this treatment.
The good news: There are some easy steps you can take to protect yourself.
How you get it: Like other STIs, gonorrhea is transmitted through sexual contact. This includes your standard p-in-v, but it also includes oral and anal sex as well. In fact, oral sex is one of the fastest ways super gonorrhea is spreading because people don't often use protection during oral. Plus, antibiotics don't reach the throat as effectively as they do other parts of the body, according to Public Health England, and existing bacteria in your throat may share their antibiotic resistance.
Where it's spreading: Gonorrhea, the second most common reportable infectious disease, is found in every state in the U.S. and in every country in the world. Antibiotic resistant strains are harder to track but the CDC has a map showing outbreaks. While strains that are 100 percent resistant are still relatively rare, health professionals call the trend a major public health concern.
Who is most at risk: Younger people, aged 19 t0 29, account for the vast majority of the cases.
Symptoms of the disease: One of things that's allowing super gonorrhea to spread so quickly is the fact that 90 percent of men and over 75 percent of women show no symptoms. Symptoms, when they are present, can include green vaginal discharge, pelvic pain, vaginal odors and a fever. Left unchecked, it can make you infertile.
How to get tested: Because of the prevalence of the bug and the lack of symptoms, getting regularly checked for all STIs at a doctor's office is a must for every sexually active person—even if you are in a monogamous relationship as the bacteria can remain latent in your system for years.
How to prevent it: Abstinence is the best way to prevent gonorrhea and all STIs, but it's also the least realistic. So if you're going to have sex, make sure you use condoms every. single. time. And that includes oral and anal sex as well. Have Better Sex with One Of These Condoms.