Caused by bacteria...gonorrhea is transmitted during sex. Unprotected sex and having multiple partners raise the risk.
So far this year, there have been 108 cases in Yakima County. That's a 74% increase over the same period last year. And, more than the total number of cases for all of 2012.
The Washington State Department of Health says the situation is now an outbreak in Yakima County.
"The Department of Health at Washington State is still looking into exactly what the similarities are in the cases, why we're seeing more," said David Miller, a public health nurse with the Yakima Health District.
That uncertainty is keeping the Yakima Health District from developing an action plan. Right now, health officials urge people to get tested.
Charles Forster -- a family physician -- says leaving gonorrhea untreated poses serious health risks. "It is dangerous. It can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and it can also, on a less common basis, enter the bloodstream and travel to other parts of the body."
Young people are particularly at risk. The highest number of cases this year are showing up in 20 to 24 year olds.
Students at local college were disturbed by the news, but realize the outbreak can't be ignored by their peers.
"Get checked. Get tested," urged one student. Another advised, "Knowing is always better than not knowing. The embarrassment is not as bad as living with this."