Rare gonorrhea-linked infection that can lead to meningitis reported in Michigan: health officials

Health officials in Michigan are looking into multiple cases of a rare but serious gonorrhea-linked infection.

In an announcement on Thursday, the Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department announced it and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services are investigating 11 cases of disseminated gonococcal infection (DGI).

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Ten of the cases are confirmed while one is considered a possible case, health officials said.

If left untreated, the bacteria that causes gonorrhea — a sexually transmitted infection (STI) — can spread to the bloodstream and other parts of the body. This can lead to DGI, according to Healthline, which describes it as a “serious medical condition.”

“Gonorrhea is an STI that can spread through vaginal, anal, or oral intercourse. DGI can develop within two weeks of being infected with gonorrhea. Once in the bloodstream, gonorrhea can affect various tissues and cause permanent damage,” it states.

10 of the 11 cases have been confirmed, health officials said.

10 of the 11 cases have been confirmed, health officials said. (iStock)

DGI is a complication of gonorrhea and can lead to gonococcal arthritis, gonococcal endocarditis (damage to the inner lining of the heart muscle), and gonococcal meningitis. Infertility is also a possibility.

Symptoms of DGI typically include fever or chills, joint pain or swelling, pain in the tendons of the wrists of heels or a puss-filled skin rash.

DGI, as well as gonorrhea, is typically treated with antibiotics, according to Healthline.

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“Gonorrhea infection that spreads to joints and internal organs is a rare but serious infection that may require hospitalization, IV antibiotics and surgery. We urge community members to protect themselves from this preventable infection through safe sex practices, including using condoms,” said Dr. William Nettleton, medical director of Kalamazoo County Health & Community Services Department, in a statement.

DGI and gonorrhea can be prevented through safe sex practices such as using a condom.

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