Preventing gonorrhea, one phone call at a time


Health program specialist Anna Halloran with the Spokane Regional Health District is helping prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea or chlamydia one phone call at a time.  

Halloran makes the calls others can't or don't want to make and the person on the other line should take a moment to listen.

"Reactions really vary. Some people just kind of take it in stride. Some people cry. Some people are really angry and may want to know who exposed them to an infection," she said.

Halloran is the only one in the city of Spokane who has the job of calling people who may have been exposed to gonorrhea or chlamydia. It's tough news to drop on someone but it's also a conversation that's better to have sooner rather than later.

"It's not something I went to school for," Halloran said.

Unfortunately, with an outbreak of gonorrhea in Spokane County right now, she's been making those calls a lot more frequently recently.

"A lot of people do talk to their partners. I would say the majority talk to their partners and help insure they get taken care of," she said.

But Halloran is there for those who don't, collecting names and numbers to start that delicate conversation. Granted some partners may not be on speaking terms or even know last names.

"Sometimes I'll get a physical description to help me identify who they might be through Facebook," she explained.

Since health care providers are required to report cases of gonorrhea and chlamydia to the health district, Halloran isn't there to bail someone out of a prickly situation, but rather to stop the infection before it's passed or gets worse.

"Prevention is always better than treatment so we are just trying to stop disease before it spreads," she said.

In addition to gonorrhea and Chlamydia, the health district also uses employees to notify people of HIV or syphilis exposure.

Halloran's job is unique in that she is one among 1,200 people across the country who have been designated disease intervention specialists by the Centers for Disease Control.