Geographic epidemiology of gonorrhea in Baltimore, Maryland, using a Geographic Information System

Karen M. Becker, Gregory E. Glass, Wayne Brathwaite, Jonathan M. Zenilman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

81 Scopus citations


The epidemiology of gonorrhea is characterized by geographically defined hyperendemic areas, or 'cores.' Geographic information system (GIS) technology offers new opportunities to evaluate these patterns: The authors developed a GIS system linked to the disease surveillance database at the Baltimore Health Department and used this system to evaluate the geographic epidemiology of gonorrhea in Baltimore, Maryland, during 1994. There were 7,330 reported cases, of which 87.4% were in persons aged 15-39 years; 56.8% were of the cases were in males; and 60.5% of the cases were reported from the nonsexually transmitted disease (STD) clinic sector. Valid residential addresses were available for 6,831 (93.5%) of cases. In the GIS system, gonorrhea cases were geocoded by reported address using digitized maps, and assigned to census tract. Census tract-specific rates for persons aged 15-39 years were calculated using 1990 census data. Gonorrhea was reported from 196/202 (97%) of census tracts, of which 90 census tracts had >30 cases. For these 90 census tracts, rates were ranked. The core was considered as the top rate quartile, consisting of 13 geographically contigous census tracts with rates 4,370-6,370 per 100,000; adjacent areas were 19 census tracts in the second quartile (rates: 3,730-4,370 per 100,000). As radial distance from the core areas increased, incidence rates decreased and male/female ratio increased, which is consistent with previous defInitions of the core theory of STD transmission. Mapping of cases by provider showed that cases reported from STD clinics had similar geographic distribution to those from the non- STD clinic sector. From an operational perspective, GIS can be effectively integrated with clinical data systems to provide epidemiologic analysis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)709-716
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican journal of epidemiology
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 1998


  • Geographic information systems
  • Geography
  • Gonorrhea
  • Space-time clustering

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology


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