The incubation period of gonorrhea is generally only 2 to 5 days. Asymptomatic infections can occur in both sexes. In men, gonorrhea is characterized by urethritis, with pain during urination, and a thick, pus-containing discharge from the penis. These symptoms are dramatic and unpleasant, and they usually inspire prompt treatment. In women, the usual symptoms of painful urination and vaginal discharge tend to be mild, and they may be overlooked. Therefore, women are more likely than men to become unknowing carriers of gonorrhea.

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