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‘Super gonorrhoea’ – is there anything to worry about?

Main image 9 October, 2015

Last month, it was revealed that there was an outbreak of a concerning strain of ‘super gonorrhoea’ in the north of England. But just how concerning is this new strain? And is there anything for people in Scotland to be worried about?

Well the outbreak of this new form of gonorrhoea, which was first detected in Leeds in March 2015, has spread. At the time of the news story, 15 cases had been detected by Public Health England in patients from Macclesfield, Scunthorpe and Oldham – just four hours from Edinburgh, where one of our private health practices is located.

The reason for this ‘so-called’ super strain of gonorrhoea is that the sexually transmitted infection is highly resistant to azithromycin – the drug most commonly used to treat it (although at YourGP, we most commonly use ceftriaxone).

So just how common is gonorrhoea?

Gonorrhoea, a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease often referred to as ‘the clap’, is the second-most common bacterial STI in the UK after chlamydia.

There were almost 35,000 cases of gonorrhoea reported in England in 2014, and according to figures released by the Information Services Division of the Scottish NHS, the number of those diagnosed with gonorrhoea in Scotland rose from 808 in 2003 to 1884 in 2012 – an increase of 133%.

However, when we spoke to Dr Katie Cathrow, who has worked in family planning and sexual health in the Borders and Sandyford in Glasgow, she told us she has never seen a confirmed case of gonorrhoea.

This would indicate that although gonorrhoea is becoming more common, and certain strains are becoming more resistant to antibiotics, the infection is still relatively rare in Scotland.

Importantly though, that doesn’t mean gonorrhoea is something you should ignore or dismiss. In fact, we have had a couple of positive results at YourGP in the past few months – one as recently as last week.

How do you know if you have gonorrhoea?

Around 1 in 10 infected men and almost half of infected women don’t experience any symptoms at all, meaning there may be people who have the disease and don’t know it.

This means the infection can often go untreated for some time, and that during this undetected period, it can spread to other partners if the patient is sexualy active.

However, for those who do experience symptoms, they can include a burning sensation when urinating, a green or yellow discharge from the penis or vagina, or vaginal bleeding between periods.

What should you do if you think you have gonorrhoea?

If you have any of these symptoms, or are concerned about this new strain of gonorrhoea, the only way to resolve your worries and put your mind at rest is to get yourself checked out.

Even if you don’t have any symptoms, you could be infected and may wish to be tested.

What happens if I don’t get treated?

Untreated gonorrhoea can cause serious and permanent health problems in both women and men.

If it isn’t treated, it can cause serious swelling of the testicles, which may cause a man to be sterile. In women, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, which can lead to scar tissue that blocks fallopian tubes, infertility and long-term abdominal pain.

Rarely, untreated gonorrhoea can also spread to your blood or joints and may also increase your chances of contracting HIV.

Gonorrhoea testing and treatment at YourGP

At YourGP private health practice in Edinburgh and Aberdeen, we offer short-notice, confidential and anonymous appointments for gonorrhoea testing.

Our tests are carried out in an accredited laboratory and we can offer a fast turnaround of results. If you receive a positive result, we are then able to offer advice, support and all  necessary treatment.

To arrange an appointment, use our online booking form, email our reception team at reception@your.gp or call us on 0131 225 5656.

If you want to find out more about gonorrhoea or if you have any questions about sexual health in general, you can get in touch on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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