HSE concerned at upsurge in gonorrhoea cases
Public health director says forms of infection may become untreatable in future
False-colour transmission electron micrograph of Neisseria gonorrhoeae (gonococcus), the species of bacteria causing the sexually- transmitted infection gonorrhoea.
The growing number of people being diagnosed with the sexually transmitted infection gonorrhoea in the State is a “cause for concern”, the HSE has said.
A total of 1,077 cases have been notified to date this year, compared to 1,110 for the whole of 2012.
The HSE said the “magnitude of the increase” in the Dublin, Wicklow and Kildare region was a particular worry with 817 cases diagnosed last year - 33 per cent more than in 2011. A similar trend is occurring in the UK.
The development has prompted the HSE to establish a “an outbreak control team” which carried out “enhanced surveillance on all gonorrhoea cases notified during the first three months of 2013 in the East and South-East areas”.
It found that young heterosexuals and men who have sex with men were the two groups most at risk. The HSE said the proportion of cases seen in heterosexuals was “quite high at 44 per cent” of the total”. An information campaign targetting the groups is being run by the HSE over the coming weeks.
“This upsurge in gonorrhoea is a cause of concern, as untreated or inadequately treated gonorrhoea may lead to severe complications including infertility in men and women,” HSE East director of public health Dr Margaret Fitzgerald said.
She said “emerging antimicrobial resistance” to gonorrhoea was a major concern and that it was possible some forms of the infection “may become untreatable in the near future”.
Dr Fitzgerald said some 50 per cent of women and 10 per cent of men with urogenital gonorrhoea may not be aware they have the infection.
Unsafe sexual behaviour was a significant driver of the increase in cases of gonorrhoea and other STIs, the HSE said.
On its website, the Health Surveillance Protection Centre recommends abstinence, a mutually monogamous relationship with an uninfected person and correct use of condoms as ways of avoiding gonorrhoea.