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Gonorrhea is commonly referred to as "the clap." The incidence of gonorrhea has steadily declined since the 1980s, largely due to increased public awareness campaigns and the risk of contracting other sexually transmitted diseases, such as AIDS. Still, current estimates range from 400,000 to as many as one million projected cases of gonorrhea in the United States each year. These estimates vary due to the private nature of the disease and the consequent underreporting that occurs. The majority of reported cases of gonorrhea come from public health clinics.

The disease affects people of all ages, races, and socioeconomic levels, but some individuals are more at-risk than others. Adolescents and young adults are the highest risk group, with more than 80% of the reported cases each year occurring in the 15-29 age group. Those individuals with multiple sexual partners and who use no barrier contraception, such as condoms, are most at-risk. Reported rates vary among racial and ethnic groups.

The risk factors for gonorrhea are not unlike those for all sexually transmitted diseases. Both men and women can become infected through a variety of sexual contact behaviors, including oral, anal, or vaginal intercourse. The disease is transmitted very efficiently. In fact, women run a 60-90% chance of contracting the disease after just one sexual encounter with an infected male. The disease can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her infant during delivery.

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