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Dramatic rise in gonorrhoea cases in Northern Ireland - Public Health Agency

Gonorrhoea cases haven risen dramatically in Northern Ireland for a second year.

The latest figures released by the Public Health Agency show that there were 537 new episodes of uncomplicated gonorrhoea last year.

It is a significant jump from 451 cases of the STI in 2012 and 336 in 2011.

The agency says the increase is down to a combination of more sensitive testing and more people being tested - as well as increased unsafe sexual activity.

Dr Gillian Armstrong, Specialist Registrar in Public Health, said: “This year we have seen another large increase in gonorrhoea diagnoses. This has been seen in both heterosexuals and in men who have sex with men (MSM).

“This would suggest that the newer, more sensitive tests introduced in recent years are showing that prevalence was higher than previously thought. However, there is also likely to be increased transmission due to unsafe sex.”

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) and, untreated, can enter the bloodstream or spread to the joints.

In women it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy and infertility. An infected pregnant woman may even pass the infection to her baby during delivery.

The infection's resistance to antibiotics is a growing worldwide problem.

The Public Health Agency is stressing that the risk of getting or transmitting an STI can be reduced by:

• always using a condom when having sex with casual and new partners

• getting tested if at risk

• MSM having unprotected sex with casual or new partners should have an HIV/STI screen at least annually, and every three months if changing partners regularly

• reducing the number of sexual partners and avoiding overlapping sexual relationships

Further information on GUM clinics can be found at: http://bit.ly/GUMclinic

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