Dat­ing sites and heat­wave blamed for rise in syphilis

Glamorgan Gazette - - Your Views - ESTEL FARELL-ROIG estel.farell-roig@waleson­line.co.uk

THE heat­wave and on­line dat­ing sites have been blamed for a five­fold rise in di­ag­nosed cases of syphilis across Wales.

Abertawe Bro Mor­gan­nwg Univer­sity Health Board has said there have been 56 con­firmed cases across Swansea, Neath Port Tal­bot and Brid­gend since April this year – 16 of them in the last two weeks alone.

This com­pares to AprilSeptem­ber last year when there were 11 cases, and just eight dur­ing the same pe­riod of 2016.

Sex­ual health lead nurse Joanne Hearne said: “There has been an in­crease in syphilis gen­er­ally across Wales.

“But we have seen a sig­nif­i­cant rise across the health board area, par­tic­u­larly over the last six weeks.

“It is pos­si­ble that the heat­wave ear­lier in the sum­mer led to peo­ple be­com­ing more sex­u­ally ac­tive.

“We also be­lieve so­cial me­dia and the growth of dat­ing web­sites and apps is an­other con­trib­u­tory fac­tor.”

Although most of the pa­tients di­ag­nosed were men, sev­eral women have also tested pos­i­tive.

Sex­ual health chiefs are urg­ing peo­ple to play safe af­ter the rise and any­one who has had un­pro­tected sex re­cently is be­ing ad­vised to at­tend one of ABMU’s sex­ual health clin­ics for screen­ing.

Sex­ual health sis­ter Carly Porter added: “We have found that some di­ag­nosed pa­tients find it a lot more dif­fi­cult to con­tact pre­vi­ous sex­ual part­ners as they have met them through a dat­ing app.

“In some cases, they may have then deleted their pro­file.

“As a re­sult, many peo­ple may be un­aware they have the in­fec­tion.”

Symp­toms of syphilis can in­clude small pain­less sores or ul­cers, blotchy red rashes, small skin growths or white patches in the mouth. It may also cause tired­ness, headaches, joint pains and swollen glands.

How­ever, some peo­ple may ex­pe­ri­ence no symp­toms at all – mak­ing it all the more im­por­tant for them to be screened. This takes just a few min­utes, and in­cludes a blood test and sam­ple of fluid taken from any sores us­ing a swab.

If tested pos­i­tive, syphilis is very easy to treat with a peni­cillin in­jec­tion or a two-week course of an­tibi­otics.

“How­ever, if left un­treated, it can spread to the brain or other parts of the body, caus­ing se­ri­ous, long-term prob­lems.

Ms Porter said: “We can­not em­pha­sise enough how im­por­tant it is to prac­tise safer sex with the use of con­doms to pre­vent in­fec­tion.

“If any­one is feel­ing un­easy fol­low­ing un­pro­tected sex, we would ad­vise them to at­tend a screen­ing at their lo­cal sex­ual health clinic, so we can treat them quickly and sim­ply.”

ABMU pro­vides a free, con­fi­den­tial and friendly sex­ual health ser­vice at a range of lo­ca­tions across the health board area.

For fur­ther ad­vice or to make an ap­point­ment, please call the freep­hone num­ber 0300 5550 279.

Fur­ther ad­vice is avail­able at the Frisky Wales web­site.

There has been an in­crease in syphilis gen­er­ally across Wales

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