Epidemiology

The clinical epidemiology of the classic gonorrhea syndromes forms the basis for the population epidemiology of the disease. Gonorrhea is transmitted by sexual contact. The probability of transmission from male to female after a single contact is approximately 50 percent; from female to male, 22 percent. The incubation period is 3 to 5 days in men and slightly longer in women. A significant proportion of both sexes never becomes symptomatic. The incidence of disease in a given community, then, is a function of two major parameters: (1) the degree of sexual interaction, which includes the frequency of new partners, as well as the duration, intensity, frequency, and logistics of sexual contact; and (2) the duration of infectiousness, which takes into account the proportion of asymptomatic infection, the proportion of a population that will seek health care, the adequacy of therapy, and the extent to which sex partners are apprised of their risk. Clearly, the final epidemiological picture will be a complex interaction of biological, social, and individual events. In general, however, gonorrhea is a disease of high incidence but short duration and, hence, of low prevalence.

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