The number of gonorrhoea cases in the UK has risen by more than a fifth on pre-pandemic levels.
Provisional data published shows that diagnoses of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) from January to September 2022 were higher than the same nine-month period in each of the last three years.
In the first nine months of last year, 56,327 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed – up from 46,541 cases from January to September 2019.
People aged between 15 and 24 years are the most likely to be diagnosed with STIs due to changing sexual partners more often than other age groups.
Though STIs are usually easily treated with antibiotics, some can cause serious health issues including infertility and pelvic inflammatory disease.
The UK’s Health Security Agency (UKHSA) has urged people to wear a condom and get tested regularly if having sex with new or casual partners.
Typical symptoms of gonorrhoea include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when urinating, pain and discomfort in the rectum and lower abdominal pain and bleeding between periods in those with a uterus or ovaries.
But often, people infected with gonorrhoea will have no symptoms.
Dr Katy Sinka, consultant epidemiologist at UKHSA, said: “Condoms aren’t just about preventing unwanted pregnancy; they are the main defence against STIs.
“If you have had condom-less sex with a new or casual partner, it is even more important to get tested to detect any potential infections early and prevent passing them on to others.
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Dr Claire Dewsnap, president of the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV, said: “The rise in gonorrhoea cases provides an important reminder of the importance of testing for STIs and wearing a condom every time you have sex.
“By getting tested at least once a year, regardless of whether you’re showing symptoms, you can help minimise the risk of catching or passing on STIs when having sex.
“Delaying access to the right care and treatment also risks developing longer-term problems which can be more difficult to address.”