LIFESTYLE

Syphilis Cases Have Soared By 76% In Four Years

'Our message is clear, have fun but do it safely.'

05/07/2016 16:15

Syphilis cases in England have risen by 76% in the past four years, according to a new report by Public Health England (PHE)

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be caught through unprotected sex with someone infected. It was rife in the Victorian ages because of prolific visits to brothels. 

It can usually be cured with a short course of antibiotics, however if it is left untreated it can cause severe health problems. 

The new report from PHE suggests that the infection is becoming more prevalent among gay men and young people. 

Cases of gonorrhoea have risen by 53% in the same amount of time. However cases of chlamydia and genital warts have dropped slightly. 

Noviembre Anita Vela via Getty Images

The new report attributes high levels of unprotected sex as the reason for the rise.

From 2012 to 2015, syphilis cases rose from 3,001 to 5,288. Between 2014 and 2015 alone, these cases increased by 20%.

Gonorrhoea cases have all risen by 53% in the same period of time.

The number of chlamydia cases has dropped by 4%, although experts attribute this to fewer people going for routine testing.

Similarly, cases of genital warts dropped by 7%, which has been credited to the large number of young women having the HPV jab at school. 

Experts said the impact of sexually transmitted infections is greatest in people aged 25 and under, as well as men who have sex with men.

After the report was published, Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at PHE, said: "The new statistics show STI rates are still very high among gay men and young adults.

"We need to do more to raise awareness about STIs and how they can be prevented, especially the effectiveness of using condoms.

"We recommend that anyone having sex with a new or casual partner uses condoms and tests regularly for HIV and STIs."

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Dr Helen Webberley, the dedicated GP for Oxford Online Pharmacy, said there has been a rapid decline in safe sex since the 1980s which is very "worrying".

"Casual sex, sex with 'commercial sex workers' and sex with multiple partners is increasing all the time," she explained.

"These risk-taking behaviours are most common amongst the young, who feel that nothing can happen to them and, more surprisingly perhaps, amongst older people out of long-term relationships, who wrongly perceive that STIs only happen to the young.

"STIs are extremely unpleasant and highly preventable. Use condoms and oral barriers, or dams and make sure that, if you are considering having unprotected sex, both you and your partner have been tested.

"Our message is clear, have fun but do it safely."

Syphilis symptoms aren't always obvious and may eventually disappear, however the infection doesn't go away until you seek treatment.

If you don't get treated, syphilis can spread to the brain or other parts of the body and can result in organ damage, memory loss, paralysis or even death.

It can be spread through close contact with an infected sore, either through vaginal, anal or oral sex, or by sharing sex toys with someone who's infected.

According to the NHS, noticeable symptoms of the infection include:

:: Small, painless sores or ulcers that typically appear on the penis, vagina or around the anus. They can also occur in other places such as the mouth.

:: A blotchy red rash that can affect the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

:: Small skin growths (similar to genital warts) that can develop on the vulva in women and around the anus in both men and women.

:: White patches in the mouth.

:: Tiredness, headaches, joint pains, a high temperature and swollen glands in your neck, groin or armpits.

A blood test and swab is used to test people for syphilis, this can be carried out at your nearest sexual health or GUM clinic.

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