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Gonorrhoea on the Increase


6 September 2000

Gonorrhoea on the Increase

THE incidence of gonorrhoea in Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty continues to rise, a new report shows.

The ESR report, commissioned by the Ministry of Health as part of its surveillance programme, shows the upward trend in gonorrhoea cases continued January 1-June 30 2000.

Auckland laboratories reported 358 cases of gonorrhoea in the six months, 43 cases (or 14 per cent) more than the number of cases reported for the previous six months. Auckland laboratories reported 308 cases in 1997 (12 months), 445 cases in 1998, and 606 cases in 1999.

Men aged 20-24 years had the highest infection rates (369 per 100 000), followed by women aged 15-19 years (261 per 100 000). Rates of gonorrhoea were higher in males (85 per 100 000) than in females (47 per 100 000).

Waikato and Bay of Plenty laboratories reported 176 gonorrhoea cases January to June 2000, 47 cases (or 36 per cent) more than the number of cases reported for the previous six months. Gonorrhoea has been on the increase in the Waikato since 1998 but it is the first time an increase in gonorrhoea has been observed in the Bay of Plenty.

The overall incidence of gonorrhoea in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty was 63 per 100 000 population, with the female rate higher than the male rate.

Laboratories in the Waikato and Bay of Plenty reported 1427 positive chlamydia test results between January and June 2000, 148 cases (or 12 per cent) more than in the previous six-month period. Females aged 15-19 years (4466 per 100 000) and females aged 20-24 years (3660 per 100 000) had the highest chlamydia rates.

Chlamydia rates in males were lower than for females, probably reflecting the fact that women were more likely to be tested. Some of the increase could be due to the introduction of more sensitive laboratory tests and increased awareness by health professionals of the need to test for chlamydia.

Ministry of Health Public Health Medicine Senior Advisor Dr Alison Roberts said the increasing number of cases being reported was concerning, particularly the infection rate in young people.

"The figures show people are not having safe sex. It highlights the need to use condoms. It is also important to remember that infections like gonorrhoea and chlamydia may be symptomless and that partners also need to be tested and treated.

"If left untreated these infections can lead to longer term problems like infertility," Dr Roberts said.

ENDS

For further interpretation of the data contact; Anne McNicolas, ESR Research Associate, 04 914 0693

For further comment contact; Sue McCabe, Ministry of Health Media Advisor, 04 496 2067 or 025 495 989 Ministry Internet Address; http://www.moh.govt.nz

For local comment contact; Rick Franklin, Auckland Sexual Health Clinic, 09 307 2885 or 021 988 365 Kitty Flannery, Waikato Sexual Health Clinic, 07 839 8732 Noeleen Tanner, Tauranga Sexual Health Clinic, 07 579 8130

Backgrounder: Auckland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty Chlamydia and Gonorrhoea Reports

The Ministry of Health commissions the Institute of Environmental Science and Research (ESR) to monitor sexually transmitted infections. This is done through a number of surveillance programmes, including the collection of anonymised data on laboratory confirmed cases of chlamydia and gonorrhoea in Auckland, and in Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

The laboratory reports include positive chlamydia and gonorrhoea test results for patients seen by all health providers in the three regions, mainly from general practitioners, sexual health clinics, and family planning clinics.

While all laboratory-confirmed cases for a region are reported and this data provides a comprehensive source of information, the figures are likely to underestimate the real chlamydia and gonorrhoea rates because; patients may be treated for these infections without a laboratory test being undertaken chlamydia and gonorrhoea infections are often symptomless - particularly in women - so there will be untreated cases in the population

The laboratory reports are sent to surveillance programme participants and Medical Officers of Health so that they are aware of the rate of infection and trends in their local population. The Ministry and ESR would like to thank the programme participants for contributing to this increased awareness and information resource.

ESR and the Ministry of Health will release the laboratory data to the participants, health officers and media every six months. The two organisations also produce and release a quarterly report on sexually transmitted infections nationwide to participants, health officers and media. However this only includes reported cases to a selected number of health providers like STD clinics and Family Planning, and not GPs. Therefore, it is useful for looking at trends but does not represent the rate of sexually transmitted infections in New Zealand.

Facts on safe sex;

safe sex means preventing blood or sexual fluid from passing between partners

there are many ways to make sure sex is safe, including correct use of condoms and only having one sexual partner

safe sex is essential in controlling the spread of sexually transmitted infections

every sexually active person needs to take responsibility for their health and be aware of the risks of sexual activity and how they can make it safer

sexually transmitted infections can be symptomless and left untreated can lead to long term problems including fertility

partners also need to be tested and treated

For further information on the collection of the data and results contact; Anne McNicolas, ESR Research Associate, 04 914 0693

For further comment contact; Sue McCabe, Ministry Media Advisor, 04 496 2067 or 025 495 989 Ministry Internet address; http://www.moh.govt.nz

For local comment contact; Rick Franklin, Auckland Sexual Health Clinic, 09 307 2885 or 021 988 365 Kitty Flannery, Waikato Sexual Health Clinic, 07 839 8732 Noeleen Tanner, Tauranga Sexual Health Clinic, 07 579 8130


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