BRITS could be faced with a gonorrhoea outbreak when lockdown ends and people start to mingle once more, doctors have warned.
Medics fear that high rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) will return once people are able to socialise again.
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At present England is in its third national lockdown, all non-essential shops are closed as well as gyms – but crucially – you aren’t allowed to visit someone inside their house unless you have formed a support bubble.
Data from Station of the Nation revealed that in February last year, cases of gonorrhea had risen by 249 per cent in the last decade, with cases of syphilis also up 165 per cent.
In lockdown the number of people visiting sexual health clinics dropped by 85 per cent and experts worry that once restrictions are lifted, STDs will be able to thrive once more.
Dr John McSorley, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV (BASHH) said Brits should get tested before lockdown ends in order to avoid spreading STDs.
Speaking to MyLondon, he said there are a lot of similarities between the coronavirus and sexually transmitted infections.
He said. “The notions of social distancing and isolating have been in sexual health for a long time.
“We are on our way back to where we were a year ago. As we open society up again we can expect more gonorrhoea and syphilis.
“People are rebounding back to living a normal life as they can and that includes a safe and entertaining sex life. About 80 to 90% of people have seen their sexual activity reduced in the last year.”
What are the symptoms of gonorrhoea?
The signs of a gonorrhoea infection can vary between men and women.
In women, symptoms can often include unusually watery or off-colour vaginal discharge, as well as burning pain when urinating.
Less common symptoms in women include pain in the lower gut and bleeding between periods or after sex.
In men, symptoms can include an unusual discharge from the penis, burning after urinating, swelling in the foreskin and, in rare cases, pain in the testicles.
Normally, it takes a couple of weeks from infection for the symptoms to emerge – although it can take a few months longer in some cases.
However, around one tenth of men and half of women have the disease without any symptoms, which can mean it goes longer without being treated.
How can you test for gonorrhoea?
It’s wise to take an STI test if you have any of the above symptoms, or if you’ve recently had unprotected sex with a new partner.
You can get tested at a sexual health clinic or at your GP.
The check-up should be quick and painless, involving a swab for women or a urine sample – and possible swab – for men.
Is there a cure for gonorrhea?
Like most bacterial infections, gonorrhoea can be treated with a short course of antibiotics.
The treatment usually starts with a jab, followed by an antibiotic tablet.
Normally, your symptoms will clear up a couple of days after the this, although some may linger for a couple of weeks longer.
While lockdown is still in place across the UK, Dr McSorley said he has already seen a 5 per cent week-on-week increase at clinics in Harrow, Ealing and Brentford in West London.
He added: “They have seen a slow and controlled increase in clinics. The bigger problem is long-acting reversible contraception (LARC). It is the area that requires the greatest action.”
Gonorrhoea is a sexually transmitted infection which is sometimes known as “the clap”.
The bacterial infection spreads through all forms of unprotected sex, as well as by sharing unwashed or unprotected sex toys.
According to the NHS, the bacteria which causes gonorrhoea can sometimes infect your throat and eyes, as well as the more common locations of the cervix, urethra and rectum.
Pregnant women can pass the infection on to their baby, which can cause blindness if it isn’t treated in time.
Just last month it was revealed that “super gonorrhoea” was on the rise, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) warning that the drug resistant drug could be untreatable.
WHO medics warned the STI may become even more resistant to antibiotics as an overuse of them during the pandemic is fuelling its mutation.
There are more than 90million cases of gonorrhoea worldwide each year, and this number is growing by 17%.
Although WHO reports the majority of cases to be in the African region, the western world is seeing cases grow at an alarming rate.
The CDC reports infections have increased by 63% since 2014, and up to five million people in the US could be infected with gonorrhoea in 10 years.
The UK has the highest gonorrhoea rate in Europe, and there could be more than 420,000 new cases every year by 2030.
Now, an increasing number of cases have been found in hospitals around the world of antibiotics being used unnecessarily to treat Covid-19.
He said: “Overuse of antibiotics in the community can fuel the emergence of antimicrobial resistance in gonorrhoea. Azithromycin – a common antibiotic for treating respiratory infections – was used for Covid-19 treatment earlier in the epidemic.
“During the pandemic, STI services have also been disrupted. This means more STI cases are not diagnosed properly with more people self-medicating as a result.
“Such a situation can fuel emergence of resistance in gonorrhea including gonorrhea superbug (super gonorrhoea) or gonorrhoea with high level resistance to current antibiotics recommended to treat it.”
They added: “Resistant strains in gonorrhoea continue to be a critical challenge to STI prevention and control efforts.”