An 11-year-old Austrian girl has been diagnosed with gonorrhea after returning from a family vacation to Italy where she reportedly bathed in a hot spring.
The girl first developed symptoms after bathing in a heavily frequented hot pool at the edge of crater lake Specchio di Venere (“Mirror of Venus”) on Pantelleria Island, Italy.
According to a case study published September 17, she developed vulvovaginitis — inflammation and irritation of the vagina or vulva, usually soothed with anti-fungal cream.
Vaginal swabs tested positive for Neisseria gonorrhoeae, a sexually-transmitted bacterial infection. Her family members however tested negative.
Researchers learned that the family members had waded into different pools at the lake, with her and her father entering one pool while her mother and sister went into another.
Although the disease can be transferred through sexual contact, the young girl adamantly denied have any contact of the kind, said researchers from New Zealand’s University of Auckland and Austria’s University of Salzburg in the study.
Instead experts believe the warm temperature, acidic nature of the water and presence of organic particles could explain why she was infected with the virus. Historical reports of gonococcal epidemics in children’s hospitals also show the disease traced back to common baths, the study stated.
Her pediatrictian recommended whey baths for two weeks to restore her vaginal flora and settle her symptoms. By week four, her swab came back negative.
Although the story ends well for the girl, “this is not a diagnosis to be missed,” the researchers wrote in the study, published in the Journal of Medical Case Reports . “A presumption that a gonococcal infection is diagnostic of sexual abuse can be dire, with children wrongfully removed from their parents’ care and their caregivers facing false charges of sexual crimes.”
They suggested adding a sign, a shower and antibacterial soap near the hot springs, to educate visitors on the risks of bathing frequently in the shallow pools.