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Rate of syphilis rockets by 88pc in Norfolk in just five years

PUBLISHED: 15:43 21 February 2019 | UPDATED: 15:54 21 February 2019

Stock photo of condoms. Photo: Getty Images

Stock photo of condoms. Photo: Getty Images

Archant

The number of people diagnosed with the sexually transmitted infection syphilis in Norfolk has risen by 88pc in the last five years.

Health bosses said while many people believe syphilis was a condition of the past, a rise in diagnoses has prompted a public health campaign to try and bring rates down.

There were just 25 cases of syphilis in Norfolk in 2013 but it has been steadily rising and in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, there were 47 cases - an 88pc rise.

In Suffolk it was even worse, with a 192pc rise in case, from 12 to 35 in the same period.

The data has prompted Public Health England (PHE) to team up with 12 local authorities and the Terrence Higgins Trust to launch a social media campaign on the issue using the hashtag #syphilisbanana.

It is primarily aimed at men who have sex with men (MSM) as this group represents 75pc of the 301 syphilis cases diagnosed in 2017 in the east of England. But anyone who is sexually active is potentially at risk. Pregnant women with syphilis can also pass the infection onto their unborn baby which can cause miscarriage or stillbirth.

PHE said in one case a recently divorced man in his 60s from the east of England caught syphilis after receiving unprotected oral sex from a short-term female partner.

Although he used condoms for other sexual activity, he didn’t think he was at risk from unprotected oral sex. In this case it was passed through mouth sores.

And part of the campaign was educating people on how the STI could be passed on, as well as recognising the symptoms and encouraging safe sex.

Rachael Scott, head of hubs and satellite services for Terrence Higgins Trust said: “This eye-catching new campaign is ultimately about getting us all thinking more about what we’re doing to protect against STIs. Syphilis can cause serious health problems if not treated. However, in its early stages syphilis is easy to treat and cure with antibiotics. It’s important to remember that in some instances syphilis may have no symptoms or can mimic symptoms related to other health conditions, which is why getting tested is the only way to know for sure if you have it or not.”

• Visit www.icash.nhs.uk for sexual health help.

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