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December 11, 2007

Increase in Gonorrhoea on West Coast

Increase in Gonorrhoea on West Coast

In the last six months there has been a sharp increase in cases of gonorrhoea on the West Coast.  The increase is Coast-wide and is part of a re-emergence of this sexually transmitted infection nationally.  Local health agencies are responding to raise awareness of the importance of safe sex and sexual health checks.

"There have been 20 cases of gonorrhoea seen in the last six months", says Janet Hogan, clinical nurse manager for the West Coast District Health Board's sexual health clinics.  "That's a dramatic increase, as we didn't see any in the previous six months and only two last year".   The West Coast's Medical Officer of Health, Dr Cheryl Brunton, has been investigating the increased incidence of gonorrhoea locally and says, "over half the cases are male, about half are aged under 22 and the obvious common denominator is unsafe sex".  "Many people think that gonorrhoea is uncommon nowadays but we are seeing an increase in cases New Zealand-wide and it's one of the many risks you take if you have unprotected sex", she says.

Gonorrhoea is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection of the genitals, rectum or throat.  In men it can cause a discharge from the penis and pain when urinating and in women, a discharge from the vagina.  Men have symptoms more often than women and symptoms occur 2-10 days after sex with an infected partner.  If it is not treated it can result in chronic pain and inflammation in the pelvis and cause infertility in women.  Chronic infection in men can also cause infertility and pain in the testicles.  Having any sexually transmitted infection increases the risk of getting another one, including HIV/AIDS.  "Gonorrhoea can be treated with antibiotics but it's important not to have sex until treatment is completed and you’ve had a repeat check", says Mrs Hogan.

Sexual health checks are available at sexual health clinics and the West Coast PHO funds free contraceptive and sexual health checks for young people aged under 22.  "If you think you've been at risk or you want to talk about contraception or sexual health, you can see your GP or nurse for free and in complete confidence", says Tara Coates, youth health promoter at Community and Public Health.    The West Coast PHO funds this service to help young people take responsibility for their sexual health.  Free condoms are also available in various centres around the Coast.  "You can call Community and Public Health on 03 768 1160 for information about your nearest supplier," says Mrs Coates.

Gonorrhoea Information Booklet [PDF, 164 KB]

This press release has been prepared on behalf of:

West Coast District Health Board
West Coast Primary Health Organisation
Community and Public Health, West Coast

For comments or further information please contact:
Dr Cheryl Brunton, Medical Officer of Health, West Coast on 021 799 001

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