Be extra vigilant over new STI threat.
Byline: DR MIRIAM STOPPARD
Having protected sex and using condoms is more important than ever. We're in the throes of an epidemic of a dangerous new strain of gonorrhoea that's become resistant to practically all antibiotics.
Gonorrhoea is a bacterial infection that can be passed on through unprotected oral, vaginal and anal sex. It used to be known as 'the clap'.
People can actually carry the bug without knowing because it cleverly hides its symptoms. And it's becoming more and more of a threat.
A report by Public Health England says cases of gonorrhoea have risen by almost 20% in 2014 among heterosexuals.
And in gay men, that figure is a frightening 32%.
To treat gonorrhoea effectively you need two antibiotics given together.
One is given by an injection (ceftriaxone) and another in the form of tablets (azithromycin).
But a new strain of the bug that is resistant to the azithromycin part of this dual approach has been found in 16 bug people in the North of England, causing great national concern.
Because although 16 people doesn't sound many, it's just the thin end of the wedge. More people could be carrying the new strain without realising.
Many are having unprotected sex, especially the over 60s, so the bug without knowing will be passed on. Both professionals and patients are terrified by the prospect of no effective treatment for an infection that affects more than 30,000 people a year. Untreated, gonorrhoea can lead to bladder and kidney problems and, worse, to infertility.
So we should be on red alert. Wise up on the symptoms of gonorrhoea. In women, a change in your vaginal discharge, any vaginal bleeding, pain during sex or when having a pee should send you straight to your GP or STI clinic.
Discharge from the penis or anus, pain when peeing and pain in the testicles should do the same for men.
Even if you don't have symptoms but are worried, don't hesitate. Get a test done pronto. It's easy. A urine sample plus a swab from your throat is taken if you're a man and a vaginal swab taken yourself if you're a woman.
You can get a sexual health check free. Go to hse.ie to find a clinic near you. Your GP may also offer tests.
If the tests come back positive for gonorrhoea, you'll have more tests to look for the strain to ensure you're getting the right treatment.
The test will be repeated in two weeks to check that it has gone.
Make sure you get advice on how to tell your recent sexual partners as they will have to be tested and treated too.
Some carry the bug without even knowing