The disease is caused by a circular bacterium, Neisseria gonorrhoeae, that is always grouped in pairs. It is passed from one person to the next only during sex with an infected person. it is not possible to get gonorrhea from toilet seats or swimming pools.

A girl who has unprotected sex with an infected man has an 80 to 90 percent chance of being infected herself—a much higher rate than with other STDs—but a boy who has unprotected sex with an infected girl has only a 20 to 25 percent chance of becoming infected. Boys have less risk because it is harder for bacteria to enter the body through the penis than through the vaginal walls.

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