The number of cases of gonorrhea in England has reached an all-time high, according to official figures.
The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) warned that cases of sexually transmitted infections (STDs) have risen by more than a fifth from the previous high year.
The rapidly rising numbers are an “important reminder of the importance of testing for STDs,” health chiefs warned.
Condoms can stop the spread of the infection – the second most common bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia.
Preliminary UKHSA data published today shows 56,327 cases recorded between January and September 2022, a 21 per cent increase from the 46,541 recorded during the same period in 2019, which was the previous high.
Preliminary UKHSA data published today indicate 56,327 cases were recorded between January and September 2022 (blue line), a 21 per cent increase from the 46,541 recorded during the same period in 2019 (green line)
Caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus, gonorrhea is passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral or anal sex, as well as sharing vibrators or sex toys that have been used without a condom
Health bosses said the spike is largely driven by people aged 15 to 24 “because of more frequent changes in sexual partners.”
Gonorrhea is a particular cause of concern among experts because the bacteria behind the infection evolve to become resistant to antibiotics.
In response to the figures, the UKHSA has urged people to wear a condom and get tested regularly if they have sex with new or casual partners.
Gonorrhea is usually easily treated with a single injection of antibiotics.
However, without treatment, it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious consequences, such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.
WHAT IS GONORRHEA?
Gonorrhea is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus.
This bacteria is usually found in penile secretions or vaginal fluid.
It is passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex, as well as sharing vibrators or sex toys that have been used without a condom.
The bacteria can infect the cervix, urethra, rectum, throat, or eyes.
It can also spread from pregnant women to their unborn babies.
Because the bacteria cannot survive for long outside the body, gonorrhea is not spread through kissing, hugging, sharing towels, toilet seats, or swimming.
About one in ten men and half of women experience no symptoms.
However, these can be:
- Thick green or yellow discharge from the genitals
- Pain when urinating
- Bleeding between periods in women
Treatment is usually a single injection of antibiotics and a tablet.
Gonorrhea can be prevented by using condoms during sex and not sharing sex toys.
Source: NHS choices
Dr. Katy Sinka, a consultant epidemiologist and head of the UKHSA’s STD division, said: ‘Condoms are not just about preventing unwanted pregnancy; they are the main defense against STIs.
“If you’ve had condomless sex with a new or casual partner, it’s even more important to get tested to detect potential infections early and prevent them from being passed on to others.”
She added: “You can get free condoms from your local sexual health clinic, and if you’re under 25 you can get them online, too.”
Caused by the bacteria Neisseria gonorrhoeae, or gonococcus, gonorrhea is passed on through unprotected vaginal, oral, or anal sex, as well as sharing vibrators or sex toys that have been used without a condom.
The bacteria is usually found in penile secretions or vaginal fluid.
In the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1.6 million new infections occur each year.
It is the second most commonly reported bacterial sexually transmitted infection in the US, but the health agency estimates that less than half of new infections go unreported, as many infections are often asymptomatic.
Typical symptoms include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when urinating, discomfort in the rectum and bleeding between periods, according to the NHS.
An untreated infection can lead to infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and can be passed to a child during pregnancy.
Experts have blamed rising infections on cuts to sexual health clinics across the country, as well as online dating apps.
Apps like Tinder, Grindr, and Bumble make it relatively easy for people to connect with new sexual partners, meet them quickly, and move on to someone else.
Last year, a report from the Local Government Association also revealed that gonorrhea and chlamydia cases among retirees rose sharply.
This was attributed to an increasing number of older Britons finding new sexual partners through dating apps after a divorce or bereavement.
Gonorrhea can be easily diagnosed either with a vaginal swab or with a urine sample.
Last year, a report from the Local Government Association also revealed that gonorrhea and chlamydia cases rose sharply among retirees. This was attributed to an increasing number of older Britons finding new sexual partners through dating apps after a divorce or bereavement
All these test samples can be made by yourself and sent for testing.
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 cases of gonorrhea we are currently seeing.
‘Cases can be easily diagnosed and treated with antibiotics. Testing is simple: samples are quick to take, can be 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, added: ‘The rise in cases of gonorrhea 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 reduce your risk of contracting or passing on STIs during sex.
“Delaying access to proper care and treatment also risks creating longer-term problems that are more difficult to address. If you are concerned about STI transmission, you can go to sexual health clinics.’