Individuals with suspect or confirmed cases must be reported to the Thunder Bay District Health Unit by the next working day by fax, phone or mail.
- Fax: (807) 625-4822
- Phone: 625-8318 or toll-free at 1-888-294-6630, ext. 8318
- Mail: 999 Balmoral Street, Thunder Bay, ON P7B 6E7
The causative agent for gonorrhea is a gram-negative diplococcus, Neisseria gonorrhoeae.
Many cases are asymptomatic. Presentation and severity differs in males and females. In males, the most common presenting symptom is a painful, purulent urethral discharge usually with dysuria and increased frequency of urination as well as redness, itching and urethral swelling. Up to 10% of urogenital infections in men are asymptomatic.
Females present with initial urethritis or cervicitis which is frequently mild and can go unnoticed. Abnormal vaginal discharge and post-coital bleeding may occur and infection can progress to pelvic inflammatory disease. Up to 50% of urogenital infections in women are asymptomatic.
Pharyngeal and anorectal gonorrhea infections can occur in those that are engaging in oral and anal sex.
Modes of transmission:
Sexual contact via oral, vaginal, cervical, urethral or anal routes. In children, transmission can occur if exposed to infected genitals (consider the possibility of sexual abuse).
Newborns can be infected during delivery from an infected woman.
In individuals who display symptoms, the incubation period is usually 1-14 days.
Period of Communicability:
Can extend for months if untreated. Effective treatment usually ends communicability within hours.
Transmission is more effective male to female than female to male. Risk factors include:
- Individuals who have had sexual contact with a person with a confirmed or suspected gonococcal infection
- Sexually active youth < 25 years of age
- Individuals who have had sex with multiple partners
- Men who have unprotected sex with men
- Vulnerable populations (e.g., sex trade workers, street-involved youth, etc.)
- Individuals with a history of other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV.
Diagnosis & Laboratory Testing
Neisseria gonorrhoeae is confirmed when detected in an appropriate clinical specimen (e.g., urogenital, rectal or throat (pharyngeal) swab, urine).
See Additional Resources (links below) and “Testing and Treatment of Gonorrhea Infections in Ontario, Quick Reference Guide, 2013.”
Treatment & Case Management
Treatment is under the direction of the attending health care provider. Provide education about and promote safer sex practices. Regardless of test results, sex partners are recommended to receive empiric treatment as per the treatment recommendations as soon as possible. A test of cure is recommended when first-line therapy is not used. See Additional Resources (links below) and “Testing and Treatment of Gonorrhea Infections in Ontario, Quick Reference Guide, 2013.”
- Ministry of Health and Long Term Care, Infectious Diseases Protocol, 2016. Appendix A (2014) and Appendix B (2014)
- Public Health Ontario. “Guidelines for Testing and Treatment of Gonorrhea in Ontario (full report).”
- Public Health Ontario. “Guidelines for Testing and Treatment of Gonorrhea in Ontario, 2013, Frequently Asked Questions.”
- Heymann, D.L. Control of Communicable Disease Manual (20th Ed.). Washington, American Public Health Association, 2015.
- Public Health Agency of Canada. “Canadian Guidelines on Sexually Transmitted Infections, evergreen edition: Gonococcal Infections, Revised July 2013.”