Health

STI hotspots revealed: Map shows the worst areas for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and super illness

London, Lincolnshire and Liverpool are England’s chlamydia hotspots, according to official data. 

Rates of the STI have plunged over the past decade. Fewer than 160,000 cases were recorded in 2021, down by a third on pre-pandemic levels. 

Cases had been creeping up before Covid, but with lockdowns and restrictions prevented people not already living together from meeting up in 2020 and 2021.

But prevalence of the bacterial infection varies drastically across the country, Government figures show. MailOnline analysis shows outbreaks are still growing in 12 parts of the country.

Some 3 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 living in Lambeth, a south London borough home to Clapham and Brixton, tested positive for chlamydia last year.

Similar rates were seen in Lewisham, Hackney and North East Lincolnshire.

But rates were as much as 14 times lower in the market town of Horsham, West Sussex, showing the huge divisions across the country.

Official data showed chlamydia rates in young people were nearly 14 times higher in the country’s worst affected area as its least. The illness was detected in 3,063 people aged 15 to 24 per 100,000 in Lambeth, London, in the year up to April 2021. For comparison, only 222 per 100,000 in the age group were infected in the market town of Horsham, West Sussex

Chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed STI, making up 51 per cent of all confirmed cases. However, around 2,000 fewer cases were detected in 2021 compared to 2020

Chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed STI, making up 51 per cent of all confirmed cases. However, around 2,000 fewer cases were detected in 2021 compared to 2020

WHERE ARE CLAMYDIA RATES INCREASING QUICKEST? 

Percentage increase 2019 to 2021 

Middlesbrough

Chorley

Dartford

Swale

Ashfield

Redcar and Cleveland

South Ribble

Hartlepool

Stockton-on-Tees

Lincoln

Regional figures for chlamydia, compiled by the UK Health Security Agency, only looks at under-25s, who make up the vast majority of all cases.

The data shows after Lambeth, the area with the highest chlamydia detection rate in young people was Lewisham — also in the capital — where 2,873 per 100,000 had infections confirmed in 2021.

It was followed by Hackney in London (2,857), North East Lincolnshire (2,631) — home to port town Grimsby — and Southwark (2,564) in the capital.

Meanwhile, only 222 per 100,000 in the age group were infected in Horsham. The next lowest rates were in Mid Sussex (297), Chichester (378) and Adur (380), both in West Sussex.

Cases are growing quickest in Middlesborough, where 2,262 per 100,000 tested positive last year. It was up 31 per cent on 2019, when 1,722 tested positive.

The other biggest jumps were seen in Chorley (24 per cent), Dartford (21 per cent) and Swale (16 per cent). 

Despite the overall downturn in chlamydia cases — with 2,000 fewer infections confirmed it 2021 — it remains the most commonly diagnosed STI in England, accounting for 51 per cent of all cases. 

Its symptoms include pain when passing urine and unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus. 

Women may also suffer tummy pain, bleeding after sex and in between periods. Men may have painful and swollen testicles.

Health chiefs hone in on rates among people aged 15 to 24 because they have the highest rate in the country. Men in the age group are three times more likely to catch it than older males, while the rate is five times higher for women. Trends vary in non-heterosexual people. 

Meanwhile, rates of gonorrhoea were similarly concentrated in London boroughs, with a diagnostic rate of 1,006 per 100,000 people last year in chlamydia hotspot Lambeth.

The City of London (832), Southwark (710) and Hackney (547) had the next highest rates, while six areas had fewer than 10 infections per 100,000.

They were: Craven in North Yorkshire (seven), East Lindsey in Lincolnshire (eight) and Babergh in Suffolk, North Devon, the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire and Eden in Cumbria (all nine).

Some 51,074 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed in 2021, up by 841 from 2020. However, rates are still below pre-pandemic, with a peak of 70,908 annual cases logged in 2019

Some 51,074 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed in 2021, up by 841 from 2020. However, rates are still below pre-pandemic, with a peak of 70,908 annual cases logged in 2019

The data revealed that MG rates have soared by a fifth in a year in the space of one year, from 4,230 in 2020 to 5,109 in 2021. However, they are still slightly lower than pre-pandemic rates, with medics logging a sharp decline in STIs as lockdowns and social distancing reduced sexual activity. MG rates had been rising by up to five-fold year-on-year before the pandemic struck, with 431 cases in 2017, 1,981 in 2018 and 5,331 in 2019

The data revealed that MG rates have soared by a fifth in a year in the space of one year, from 4,230 in 2020 to 5,109 in 2021. However, they are still slightly lower than pre-pandemic rates, with medics logging a sharp decline in STIs as lockdowns and social distancing reduced sexual activity. MG rates had been rising by up to five-fold year-on-year before the pandemic struck, with 431 cases in 2017, 1,981 in 2018 and 5,331 in 2019

Rates of super-STI ‘that causes infertility’ have spiralled 60-fold within last decade 

Rates of a super-STI which can cause infertility in women have soared 60-fold over the last decade, official figures revealed today.

More than 5,000 cases of mycoplasma genitalium — which is becoming resistant to drugs — were logged in England in 2021. 

By comparison, just 79 cases of MG were recorded when experts first proved it was a sexually transmitted infection seven years ago. 

Despite being discovered in the 1980s, very few people, even doctors, knew about it until very recently.

That is because it is commonly misdiagnosed as chlamydia.

This mistake has allowed the bacteria to quietly grow stronger and spread under the radar.

And because it has been treated with the wrong drugs, it is growing resistant to antibiotics. 

Some strains are already able to evade potent medicines, meaning patients have to take different drugs to clear the infection.

Mycoplasma genitalium infections also increased in 2021, although cases are far lower than with the other two diseases. The drug-resistant ‘super STI’, similar to chlamydia, can cause infertility in women and cases soared 60-fold over the last decade in England.

As with other STIs, cases of mycoplasma genitalium were similar concentrated in London, with Sunderland the only region in the top 10 worst affected to not be based in the capital.

Hammersmith and Fulham had a diagnostic rate of 74 per 100,000 across all ages. The next highest was Kensington and Chelsea (55), followed by Westminster and Lambeth (both 50) and Haringey (46).

Some 31 areas had fewer than one per 100,000, with Stoke-on-Trent in Staffordshire (0.38), Oldham in Greater Manchester (0.42) and Warwickshire (0.51) being the least affected in England. 

More than 5,000 cases of the bacterial infection were logged in England in 2021. By comparison, just 79 cases of MG were recorded when experts first proved it was a sexually transmitted infection seven years ago. 

Despite being discovered in the 1980s, very few people, even doctors, knew about it until very recently because it is commonly misdiagnosed as chlamydia, allowing it to quietly grow stronger and spread under the radar. 

And because it has been treated with the wrong drugs, it is growing resistant to antibiotics.  Some strains are already able to evade potent medicines, meaning patients have to take different drugs to clear the infection.

Most people who carry MG have no symptoms — but can still pass it onto others. Bad cases can cause painful inflammation and watery discharge for men.

But the STI can be more serious for women, potentially causing womb scarring that leaves them infertile.

Overall, there was 311,604 new diagnoses of STIs in England in 2021, up by 0.5 per cent from 309,921 in 2020 but still a third lower than pre-Covid.

For comparison, an average of 440,000 new infections were logged in the five years before the virus first sparked chaos.

But with students returning to universities last week, experts fear infections could return to pre-pandemic levels, with many areas seeing an increase in 2021, when there were fewer Covid restrictions. 

Across the country, one in 172 men (1.6 per cent higher than 2020) and one in 207 women (14.9 per cent lower than 2020) found out they had an STI in 2021.

However, charities warned that testing rates are still lagging behind pre-Covid levels.

Ian Green, chief executive of sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Levels of syphilis and gonorrhoea remain high while testing levels aren’t back to where they were before Covid. 

‘That’s why we need the Government to set out its vision for sexual and reproductive health in its long over-due sexual and reproductive health action plan. 

‘These latest numbers show why the Government must urgently set out what good looks like with the funding attached to achieve that vision.

‘Currently we have no national goal around sexually transmitted infections despite rates of STIs being unacceptably high for years and certain groups — including young people, gay and bisexual men, people living with HIV and some ethnic minority groups — being disproportionately affected year after year.’

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