An 11-year-old girl reportedly caught gonorrhea from swimming in an Italian hot spring while on vacation in the country with her family. As documented in the Journal of Medical Case Reports, the girl, from Austria, was with her mother, father, and older sister swimming in the volcanic lake Specchio di Venere on the island of Pantelleria off the coast of Sicily. Two days after the visit, she started experiencing painful burning, a symptom commonly associated with the STD. However, it wasn’t until she returned to her home country that the infection was confirmed.
- The temperature of the water was the perfect breeding ground for gonorrhea. Doctors believe that the warm water in one of the 20-centimeter deep pools in the hot springs created a breeding ground for the disease to spread more easily. She was initially treated with an anti-fungal cream after her family mistakenly believed she’d developed an infection along the lines of thrush or ringworm. However, it did little to alleviate her symptoms.
- When she got back to Austria, the girl visited her family doctor. There, she had a swab test and it was confirmed that the girl had contracted gonorrhea. Given that there was “no evidence” of sexual intercourse, doctors had no choice but to conclude that she’d picked up the illness in the hot springs.
- The girl received the proper treatment. That included antibiotic treatment of a shot and a course of tablets. Since then, she has made a full recovery. “Her first reaction was fear that her new classmates might hear about this infection,” the report stated. “The stress of adjusting to a new school coupled with the infection led to crying and fatigue, particularly just before treatment, as she was very afraid of the infusion.”
- Doctors have warned women about the dangers of hot springs like the one at Pantelleria. “There needs to be public understanding that people bathing in heavily frequented shallow thermal pools risk exposure to pathogens through inoculation by other bathers,” researchers warned. “A sign should make visitors aware of strict hygiene before entering the pools.” They added that young women in particular can be susceptible due to their lower pH balance. Her other family members tested negative for gonorrhea.