State Department of Health officials say the community is in the midst of a gonorrhea outbreak.

In the last three months, 27 cases have been reported for Walla Walla County. That’s a spike from six cases reported during the same time span a year ago, according to Washington Disease Reporting System information, the Washington State Department of Health said.

This is the only county in the state experiencing the outbreak, health officials said. Expected to come is an increase in syphilis, which often follows gonorrhea, the announcement said.

The increase also comes at a time when gonorrhea is becoming more drug-resistant. In 2006, doctors had five recommended ways to to treat gonorrhea. But now only one remaining treatment option is left.

The steep and sustained increases in sexually transmitted diseases during the last five years are unlike anything seen in the last two decades, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

According to the announcement through Walla Walla County Heath Department, gonorrhea bacteria normally infect the mucous membranes of the reproductive tract. They can also infect the mucous membranes of the eyes, throat, mouth and rectum.

Untreated gonorrhea, the department warns, can lead to numerous complications that include sterility, joint infections, blindness, and increased risk of acquiring other sexually transmitted diseases.

Vicki Hillhouse can be reached at 509-526-8321, or on Twitter at

Vicki covers business and economic development, including tourism, the Port of Walla Walla and the Strictly Business column, as well as features. She has been reporting for the Union-Bulletin since late 2001.