Sexually Transmitted Infections up 7.9%


Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) increased by 7.9% in 2002 when compared with 2001, according to the latest available figures released by the National Disease Surveillance Centre today (Tuesday).

The largest increase was in infectious hepatitis B, which rose by 46.15%. The most commonly reported infections in 2002 were anogenital warts, non specific urethritis and C. trachomatis.

Commenting on the figures, NDSC Specialist in Public Health Medicine, Dr Mary Cronin, said that while the increases in reported cases reflect unsafe sexual practices, other factors including the availability of more sophisticated testing methods and professional awareness of STIs generally, also contributed to the increases.

"I would urge those who are sexually active to practice safe sex, as most STIs are preventable.
Many STIs may have no signs or symptoms. For example, more than seven out of ten women infected with chlamydia have no symptoms and may not realise they are infected. STIs are easily treated and cured if identified, but early diagnosis and treatment is important. If left untreated, irreversible complications including infertility and ectopic pregnancies can arise. 

"Having another sexually transmitted infection also increases the risk of transmission and acquisition of HIV infection. The prevention messages have never been more important as there is no cure for HIV infection or AIDS. However, with advances in treatment more people are living with the infection.  

"As in 2000 and 2001, there were large numbers of syphilis infections reported in 2002. This is against a low incidence of reported syphilis cases throughout the 1990s in Ireland. These figures reflect the outbreak of syphilis amongst men who have sex with men (MSM) in Dublin during 2002, which peaked in 2001.

"The 2002 figures show a decrease in the reported numbers of cases of gonorrhoea and syphilis among males. These decreases are likely to have been partly due to interventions put in place at the time by the Eastern Regional Health Authority outbreak control team in response to the syphilis problem," said Dr Cronin. 

For more information see the 2002 Annual Summary below:

2002 Annual Summary

During 2002, 10471 STIs were notified compared to 9703 in 2001, a 7.9% increase. Notified STIs have been increasing steadily each year since 1994, increasing by 157.1% between 1994 and 2002 and by 370% between 1989 and 2002. The number of STIs notified in 2002 is the highest number reported in any year on record. Notified cases of candidiasis, C. trachomatis, genital herpes simplex, infectious hepatitis B, lymphogranuloma venereum, molluscum contagiosum, non-specific urethritis, syphilis and trichomoniasis all increased during 2002, compared to 2001. Ano-genital warts, gonorrhoea and P. pubis notifications all decreased in 2002, compared to 2001. Significantly, notified cases of infectious hepatitis B increased by 46.2% and gonorrhoea decreased by 38.7%. The cumulative rate per 100,000 population for all notified STIs increased in 2002 to 267.3 per 100,000 population; compared to a rate of 247.7 per 100,000 in 2001. 

During 2002, 42.4% (4434) of all STI notifications were from the ERHA, 16.4% (1721) from the MWHB, 15.4% (1617) from the SHB, 11.0% (1147) from the WHB, 8.7% (906) from the SEHB, 6.1% (637) from the NWHB, 0.07% (7) from the MHB and 0.02% (2) from the NEHB (table 5). It is important to note that STI surveillance is mainly clinic based and there are currently no STI clinics in the MHB and NEHB. The majority of all notifiable STIs in 2002 were notified from the ERHA: chancroid (n=1; 100.0%), lymphogranuloma venereum (n=1; 100.0%), syphilis (n=243; 80.2%), trichomoniasis (n=49; 67.1%), genital herpes simplex (n=220; 61.5%), gonorrhoea (n=120; 56.1%), infectious hepatitis B (n=30; 52.6%), molluscum contagiosum (n=72; 48.0%), C. trachomatis (n=910; 47.4%), candidiasis (n=546; 40.4%), ano-genital warts (n=1588; 40.4%) and P. pubis (n=24, 28.6%). The majority of notifications of non-specific urethritis (n=691; 34.1%) in 2002 were from the MWHB. STI notifications have increased in all health boards in 2002, compared to 2001, with the exception of the ERHA, where notifications decreased by 9.9%.

Where the age group was known (n=6013, 57.4%), 12.24% (736) of notified STIs were 0 to 19 years old, 61.3% (3683) were 20 to 29, 18.3% (1099) were 30 to 39 and 8.2% (495) were aged 40 years of age or older, in 2002. For all STIs, the 20-29 year age group represented the largest age group, with the exception of syphilis and lymphogranuloma venereum  where the majority of cases were aged between 30 and 39 years of age.

Forty-eight percent (5066) of all notified STIs were amongst males during 2002, whilst 50.6% (5298) were amongst females. Gender data was not reported for 107 (1.0%) notifications. The majority of cases of lymphogranuloma venereum (100.0%), syphilis (71.0%), trichomoniasis (61.6%), non-specific urethritis (58.9%), P. pubis (58.3%) and molluscum contagiosum (50.7%) were amongst males. The majority of notifications of chancroid (100.0%), infectious hepatitis B (68.4%), genital herpes simplex (57.8%), gonorrhoea (57.0%), candidiasis (55.9%), ano-genital warts (53.5%) and C. trachomatis (53.0%) were amongst females.

The full report on Sexually Transmitted Infections for 2002 is available here