Cases of syphilis across Lincolnshire have more than doubled in just a year, says Public Health England (PHE).
The agency has now launched a campaign to highlight the increased likelihood of contracting a life-changing sexually transmitted infection (STI) if people have sex without a condom.
The impact of having an STI is significant, and if left untreated they can cause major health issues, including; pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, swollen or painful testicles, reactive arthritis and in pregnant women STIs can lead to higher risk of miscarriage or stillbirth.
PHE East Midlands is issuing specific public health advice to residents in Lincolnshire following more than double the amount of new cases of syphilis in 2017 compared to 2016.
Jharna Kumbang, consultant in Communicable Disease Control for PHE East Midlands, said: “It’s always best to use a condom with new partners and remember that a condom is just as important for oral sex. If changing partners frequently regular testing for STIs is also important.
“Treatment of syphilis is highly effective and if you are concerned you have picked up an infection through unprotected sex get in touch with your local sexual health clinic for further advice and treatment as soon as possible.
“If Syphilis is left untreated it could spread to the brain or other parts of the body and cause serious, long-term problems. In addition, if a woman becomes infected while she’s pregnant, or becomes pregnant when she already has syphilis, it can be very dangerous for her baby if not treated.
“The symptoms of syphilis aren’t always obvious and may eventually disappear, but you’ll usually remain infected unless you get treated. Some people with syphilis have no symptoms.”
Tony McGinty, consultant in public health at Lincolnshire County Council, said: “We know that historically, the majority of syphilis cases were seen amongst males, particularly in men who have sex with men. But since 2016 there has been an increase in the number and proportion of heterosexual males and females.
“This is happening sporadically across Lincolnshire with most cases being clustered around Lincoln city, and we want to try and prevent the problem getting bigger.
“We want to reach out to both men and women in long-term heterosexual relationships who’ve recently started having sexual contact with other partners.
“Our sexual health clinics offer testing, advice and sympathetic support for men and women – and their partners - in this especially sensitive position.”
The symptoms of syphilis aren’t always obvious and may eventually disappear, but you’ll usually remain infected unless you get treated. Some people with syphilis have no symptoms.”
Symptoms can include:
l Small, painless sores or ulcers that typically appear on the penis, vagina, or around the anus, but can occur in other places such as the mouth
l A blotchy red rash that often affects the palms of the hands or soles of the feet
l Small skin growths (similar to genital warts) that may develop on the vulva in women or around the anus in both men and women
l White patches in the mouth
l Tiredness, headaches, joint pains, a high temperature (fever), and swollen glandsin your neck, groin or armpits
For more details visit www.nhs.uk/conditions/syphilis/