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Gonorrhoea, commonly called the 'clap', is a sexually transmitted infection caused by bacteria. It is the most common reportable sexually transmitted infection in the United States.
The nickname of 'the clap' refers to a treatment used to clear the urethra of bacteria blocking urination, where the penis would be 'clapped' on both sides simultaneously. This treatment is rarely used today, however the nomenclature remains.
How is it Spread?
Gonorrhoea is spread by direct person to person contact. It is almost always transmitted through sexual contact. Gonorrhoea can occur in the reproductive organs, urethra, rectum and throat. The most common sites are the urethra in males and the genital tract in females. It is also possible for pregnant women to pass the bacteria to their infant during birth. Gonorrhoea can not be passed by kissing, however the bacteria can be passed from hand to hand.
Because it is easy to be unwittingly infected, and to pass on gonorrhea to a partner, it should be the responsibility of any sexually active person to be regularly tested for gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted diseases.
Approximately 2% of persons with untreated gonorrhea may develop Disseminated Gonococcal Infection (DGI). This is characterized by fever, skin lesions and arthritis-type pain.
How Is Gonorrhoea Treated?
Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics. It is important that all of the antibiotics are taken as prescribed, and that the infected person refrain from sexual intercourse during treatment. Proper hand washing is essential. The bacteria can be transferred to the eyes.
All sexual partners should be informed to seek treatment. Because gonorrhoea can be silent, they may not show symptoms until long-term consequences have occurred.
How Can I Protect Myself?
Abstinence from both genital and oral sex is the only way to be 100% sure that you are protected from gonorrhea and other sexually transmitted infections.
If you are sexually active, you can lower your risk by following these guidelines:
Use condoms: although condoms do not provide perfect protection, they do provide the best protection available. Condoms should be used for vaginal, anal, and oral intercourse.
Ideally it's best to form a monogamous relationship in which both you and your partner are faithful to each other.
Again, ideally it's best not to engage in sexual intimacy until both of you have been tested.
Limit your number of partners. Your risk of acquiring gonorrhoea and other STDs increases as your number of partners increases.
Regular STD (sexually transmitted disease) check-ups should be part of your 'body maintenance' programme. Do not wait for symptoms to appear.
Be wary of sexual intimacy when getting drunk. This reduces your ability to make sensible decisions let alone cohesive conversation. And though it's undoubtedly great fun, sensible decisions (and cohesive conversation) are difficult enough to make while sexually aroused without the added influence of alcohol or narcotics.