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South leads fight to halt STI spread
HAMPSHIRE health bosses are leading a UK-wide war against a sexually transmitted infection that is rapidly spreading in the south.
Cases of gonorrhoea are soaring by more than 50 per cent in Hampshire and across the country as some strains of the infection are building immunity against current treatments.
The threat of an “apocalyptic” crisis has mobilised experts into launching a new action plan aimed at ensuring the infection remains treatable, led by Solent NHS Trust.
The number of people in Hampshire with the painful infection which, if untreated can cause infertility, has risen by 54 per cent in the last four years, with 379 cases diagnosed in 2012.
In Southampton alone, the figure has jumped by a massive 42 per cent just in the last year, with 101 cases diagnosed in 2012, compared to 71 in 2011.
The news comes just two weeks after the Daily Echo joined forces with Solent NHS Trust to back its mission to raise awareness of chlamydia, which has seen cases soar in the last 12 months.
Latest figures also revealed the number testing positive for the infection is set to soar over the next 12 months.
Within just five months 1,331 people tested positive in Hampshire and Southampton, compared to nearly 2,000 during the previous 12 months.
With fears of gonorrhoea becoming untreatable, Solent NHS Trust has joined forces with the Health Protection Agency (HPA) to draw up an action plan to ensure the infection does not develop resistance to treatments.
It urges health professionals to take various steps to achieve that, including rapid detection of cases where treatment has failed, advice on best practice in treatments and increasing public awareness of the dangers. There will also be more robust data collection of cases and changes to national guidelines.
If treated early, the disease is unlikely to lead to any complications but without treatment it can spread to other parts of the body and cause serious problems, such as infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.
Dr Raj Patel, consultant specialist in sexual health and HIV medicine at the Royal South Hants Hospital, said: “No area of the country is immune from the growing threat of difficult to manage gonorrhoea infections.
“Much of this rise may be explained by the substantial investment in better tests and wider access to sexual health services that has been taking place.”
Professor Dame Sally Davies, chief medical officer, who recently described the threat presented by diseases resistant to antibiotics as “apocalyptic”, added: “We have seen a worrying rise in cases of drug resistant gonorrhoea over the last decade.
Antimicrobial resistance to common drugs will increasingly threaten our ability to tackle infections and the HPA’s work is vital to addressing this threat.”