The HSE’s Department of Public Health in the South East is highlighting a recent increase in gonorrhoea cases, and giving advice on how to prevent infection.
Gonorrhoea cases notified from counties Carlow, Kilkenny, South Tipperary, Waterford and Wexford totalled 97 in 2016, compared to a figure of 63 recorded for 2015. The increase has been in men and women. More than half the cases were under the age of 25 years.
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae. It can be transmitted during unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected person. Symptoms may be mild or absent in up to half of infected women and 10% of infected men. Even if a person has no symptoms they can still transmit the infection to a sexual partner.
Outlining some of the symptoms to watch out for, Dr. Sarah Doyle (Consultant in Public Health Medicine with the HSE in the South East) said:
If present, symptoms in women include;
• increased or altered vaginal discharge,
• tummy pain,
• bleeding between periods or after vaginal sex,
• a burning sensation during urination.
Men may experience:
• a white, yellow or green discharge from the penis,
• a burning sensation when passing urine
Cautioning about some of the consequences of gonorrhoea infection, if not treated, Dr. Doyle said:
“In women, if gonorrhoea is not treated it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID can cause permanent damage to the reproductive system and lead to ectopic pregnancy, chronic pelvic pain or infertility. In men, untreated gonorrhoea infection can cause epididymitis, an inflammation of the male reproductive tubes. Rarely, untreated gonorrhoea can spread to the blood or the joints and can be life threatening.”
“Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics. Early treatment is required to prevent complications and spread to others. Gonorrhoea is diagnosed from a urine sample, or from a swab taken from the penis, cervix or other affected area. Testing can be done by GPs, at STI or Genito-Urinary Medicine (GUM) clinics and also by student health services, and family planning clinics.”
Advising on methods to protect against gonorrhoea, Dr. Doyle said they included correct use of male latex condoms, reducing the number of sexual partners and the frequency of new partners. Dr. Doyle said that regular testing is recommended for individuals who are sexually active and have risk factors for gonorrhoea (e.g. multiple partners, unprotected sex with new partners).
The HSE urges people who are at risk of infection (i.e. those who have had unprotected sexual contact) to seek testing. Appointments at the Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI) Clinic, University Hospital, Waterford are free of charge (contact 051-842646). Clinics are also held free of charge in Carlow and Clonmel (contact 051-842646 for details)..