The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services is reporting a different type of outbreak. This time, the spreading virus is gonorrhea. According to a release from MDHHS, in 2019, Michigan reported 18,264 gonorrhea infections. That number was already passed in 2020, as of October 31st. Numbers point towards a 22% increase in reported gonorrhea infections across the state.

MDDHS reports that this number is even more alarming as it is likely to be an underestimate of the actual burden of disease, due to decreased testing for STDs during the coronavirus pandemic. While normally the situation would be met with more testing, there is a national shortage of collection kits and laboratory supplies used to test for gonorrhea.

“A shortage of testing supplies during a significant statewide increase in cases presents an alarming potential for a host of negative health outcomes for Michiganders,” said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, chief medical executive and chief deputy for health for MDHHS. “Because laboratory testing is challenging at this time, it is imperative that medical providers continue to clinically diagnose and treat suspected cases of gonorrhea to slow the spread in our state.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released guidance to provide recommendations on clinical STD service challenges, including guidance on presumptive diagnosis and treatment of STDs during the pandemic. Understanding risk, consistently and correctly using condoms, reducing the number of partners and abstaining from sex are all effective prevention strategies.

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