Disease States / Health

Sexual health experts warn of New Year’s spike in gonorrhoea

Sexual health experts warn of New Year's spike in gonorrhoeaWith the Christmas party season to peak tonight, on what is known as ‘’Black Friday” or “Black eye Friday” experts are warning revellers to think of their sexual health.

A boom in cases of Gonorrhoea is predicted across Northern Ireland in the New Year.

Department of Health figures show that levels of the infection are already at an all-time high but clinicians are predicting a further outbreak in the weeks after Christmas. Gonorrhoea is often symptom free and easily transmitted, a consequence of unprotected sex and at a time of year when people are more likely to take risks with their sexual health.

Gonorrhoea is a particularly severe STI, symptoms include pain, discomfort, and discharge, but worryingly 1-in-10 men and half of women infected don’t have any symptoms. If left untreated it can lead to infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.

Dr Wallace Dinsmore, sexual health consultant at Belfast’s Royal Victoria Hospital says he is concerned about the extra pressure on GUM & SH services:

“January is traditionally the busiest time of year for sexual health clinics, we will see thousands of people across Northern Ireland who need testing and treatment.  There is no doubt that Gonorrhoea is on the rise and we believe we will see a spike in cases in after the Christmas holidays, which will add to the burden on our staff and services. ”

The Gonorrhoea outbreak in Northern Ireland is being mirrored in the Republic with Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare seeing a disturbing surge in cases. There were more than 800 cases of Gonorrhoea in this area in 2012, compared with 600 in 2011, Dr Dinsmore says this reflects the rise in Northern Ireland: “There were 450 cases last year, whereas in 2011 there were 336 recorded incidents.  Gonorrhoea doesn’t respect borders, it spreads and the public need to bear in mind the importance of protection, not just during the festive season but throughout the year.”

Dr Gary Smyth medical director at Randox, which is pioneering home STI testing with its CONFIDANTE kit, explains the post-Christmas rush in patients seeking sexual health services: “STIs are so easily passed on, especially during Christmas when sexual activity can be spontaneous and often alcohol fuelled.  If you find yourself in a situation which is causing you concern, the best advice is to take a test, this is especially important with Gonorrhoea which can be symptomless, so you may not even know that you are infected.”

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