Cases of gonorrhea have returned to England since the easing of coronavirus (COVID-19) restrictions in 2021.
Preliminary data published today indicates that gonorrhea diagnoses from January to September 2022 were 21% higher than those reported for the same period in 2019. Data also indicates that during the first nine months of 2022, gonorrhea cases exceeded that reported over the same period in each of the past three years.
UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) reminds people to wear a condom and get tested regularly if they have sex with new or casual partners.
The data shows that the total number of gonorrhea diagnoses from January to September 2022 (56,327) was 21% higher compared to the same period in 2019 (46,541), the year in which the highest number of diagnoses were reported.
Young people aged 15 to 24 remain the most susceptible to being diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STDs) due to more frequent changes in sexual partners. While STDs are usually easily treated with antibiotics, some STIs, including gonorrhea, can have serious consequences as they can cause serious health problems such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Typical symptoms of gonorrhea are a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, painful urination, pain and discomfort in the rectum and, in women, lower abdominal pain and bleeding between periods.
People infected with gonorrhea often have no symptoms, especially for infections in the throat, vagina, or rectum. This lack of symptoms makes it important to test regularly when having sex with new or casual partners.
Dr. Katy Sinka, consultant epidemiologist and head of the STI section at UKHSA, said: “Condoms are not just about preventing unwanted pregnancy; they are the most important defense against STIs. If you’ve had condomless sex with a new or casual partner, it is even more important to get tested to detect potential infections early and prevent them from being passed on to others.
“You can get free condoms at your local sexual health clinic, and if you’re under 25, you can also get them online.”
Dr. Thomas Waite, Deputy Chief Medical Officer at the Department of Health and Social Care said: “Having safe sex and getting tested regularly is important to keep you and your sexual partners safe.
“Condoms and early detection are absolutely fundamental in preventing and addressing the increase in gonorrhea cases we are currently seeing.
“Cases can be easily diagnosed and treated with antibiotics. Testing is simple: samples can be taken quickly, collected at home and sent by mail for analysis, making early detection accessible to everyone.”
Dr. Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “The rise in gonorrhea cases is an important reminder of the importance of testing for STIs and wearing a condom every time you have sex. getting tested at least once a year, whether or not you show symptoms, can help you minimize your risk of contracting or passing on STIs during sex. Delaying access to proper care and treatment also puts you at risk of getting in the longer term, problems arise that are more difficult to deal with.
“If you’re concerned about STI transmission, sexual health clinics are here to help.”
Visit https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-sexual-health-clinic to find your local sexual health service