Health officials in the United Kingdom have issued a stark warning about the increasing prevalence of gonorrhea, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), in the country.
In 2022, more than 82,500 cases of gonorrhea were diagnosed, marking a record number and a significant rise of over 50% compared to 2021, as reported by the UK’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA).
UKHSA has called on the public, including college students preparing for the upcoming semester, to use condoms when engaging in casual sexual encounters to help curb the spread of the STD.
Dr. Katy Sinka, Head of Sexually Transmitted Infections at UKHSA, emphasized, “STDs can have serious consequences,” and added that there are “easy steps you can take to reduce your risk of infection.”
Sinka stated that condoms are “the best defense” against STDs like gonorrhea. Laura Domegan, Head of Nursing at sexual health charity Brook, advised members of the public not to “worry” if they have had unprotected sex but to just get tested. She pointed out, “Anyone can get an STD. It doesn’t matter how many times you’ve had sex or what type of sex you’re having.”
The significant increase in gonorrhea cases may, in part, be attributed to a higher number of tests being conducted in the UK, where free sexual health tests are widely accessible.
Some STDs, like gonorrhea, can be asymptomatic and go unnoticed for years. Initiatives aimed at improving access to sexual health checks and campaigns promoting regular testing have contributed to the increased detection of cases in recent years.
What Causes Gonorrhea
Gonorrhea is caused by a bacterial infection known as Neisseria gonorrhoeae or gonococcus and is transmitted through sexual contact via semen and vaginal fluid.
The bacterium can reside in various parts of the body, including the cervix, urethra, rectum, and throat, making it transmissible during oral, anal, and vaginal sex.
Additionally, gonorrhea can be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby during childbirth, emphasizing the importance of testing and treatment for pregnant women.
The STD cannot be spread through activities such as kissing, hugging, sitting on toilet seats, or swimming in pools, according to sexual health charity Brook.
In women, symptoms may resemble those of bladder infections and include a burning sensation when urinating, unusual vaginal discharge, and bleeding between periods.
Importantly, about half of infected women do not exhibit symptoms, and even when they do, these symptoms are often mild. However, untreated gonorrhea can lead to complications that may result in infertility in both men and women, underscoring the significance of testing.
In men, gonorrhea may cause symptoms like unusual discharge and a burning sensation during urination. In rare cases, testicular swelling or sensitivity may occur. Rectal infections may manifest as symptoms such as discharge, itching, bleeding, and soreness around the anus.
Untreated gonorrhea can progress to affect other parts of the body, potentially leading to conditions that can cause infertility. Those most at risk of gonorrhea in the United States are typically young, sexually active adults aged 18 to 25.
While gonorrhea can usually be treated with antibiotics, health officials caution that the disease is becoming increasingly resistant to existing drugs.Email your news TIPS to Editor@kahawatungu.com or WhatsApp +254707482874