SEX THREAT: 440 locals catch chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis
A TRIPLE threat of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis is on the march across the Wide Bay with more than 430 new local cases of sexually transmitted and blood-borne diseases reported to the state's health bosses in the past seven months.
Chlamydia is the most virulent sexually transmitted infection in our region and the number of Bundaberg residents infected with the "silent" disease could be three times higher than official data shows.
NewsRegional analysis of Queensland Health statistics shows 303 new notifications of chlamydia across the Wide Bay health district of Bundaberg and Fraser Coast since January 1.
In the same period, our region recorded 33 cases of gonorrhea and two of syphilis.
Hepatitis C is the region's most common blood-borne virus with 76 notifications in 2017.
There were 14 hep B transmissions and two HIV notifications.
Chlamydia is known as the "silent infection" because symptoms are rare, but if left untreated it can cause chronic pain and infertility in women.
STI expert Professor Basil Donovan warned our region's young sexually active residents to get tested for chlamydia.
"We're only actually diagnosing a quarter of the number of cases of chlamydia because we are only testing about 10% of young people each year," the UNSW Kirby Institute Sexual Health Program head said.
"Kids are embarrassed to go to the doctor and often the doctors are embarrassed to ask about it."
Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service QClinic Nurse Unit manager Fiona Stack said notifications for hep C, HIV, chlamydia and syphilis were down on the same period last year but there was a slight increase in gonorrhea.
Ms Stack said young Bundaberg residents were most at risk of chlamydia, but using condoms and regular testing would help lower the chances of transmission.
"The simplest strategy to employ to avoid STIs is to consistently use condoms when having sexual intercourse, including oral and anal sex," she said.
"We are in the process of recruiting a clinical nurse whose role is to increase community education and awareness of STIs.
"They will also be working towards de-stigmatising the whole subject of sexual health."
Queensland Q-PrEPd HIV Prevention Trial operational manager Simon Doyle-Adams said removing the stigma associated with sexually transmitted diseases and making treatment easily accessible would reduce transmission significantly.
"Regular screening and offering new treatments and preventions is the key," Mr Doyle-Adams said.
The State Government's $62 million Queensland Sexual Health Strategy 2016-2021 aims to reduce transmission rates of STIs and blood-borne diseases.
About $5.27 million will be spent promoting safe sex across the state with $3.7 million of that allocated to regional sexual health services.
"The Queensland Government is aware of increasing numbers of sexually transmissible infections and blood-borne viruses," a Department of Health spokesman said.
Don't let 'stigma, fear or embarrassment' stop hepatitis testing, treatment
MOST of the people in Bundaberg who have hepatitis C contracted the disease by sharing needles.
In the past seven months, 90 Bundaberg and Fraser Coast residents were infected with hepatitis C or B.
Hepatitis C is the most common blood-borne virus in our region and is often spread by injecting drug users, sharing of shaving equipment and occasionally through sex.
Antiviral medications can eliminate hep C in 12 weeks and there is a vaccine for hep B.
"Hepatitis C is transmitted through blood to blood contact and a high percentage of those infected are people who inject drugs," Wide Bay Hospital and Health Service QClinic Nurse Unit manager Fiona Stack said.
Hepatitis Queensland CEO Michelle Kudell said early detection could save local residents from deadly liver complications.
"We cannot allow ourselves to be stymied by unwarranted stigma, fear or embarrassment," Ms Kudell said.
"Game-changing hepatitis C treatments, an effective vaccine and treatments to prevent and control hepatitis B and quick and painless diagnostic and liver health tests are already available as we work towards elimination of these viruses.
"Yet we are in the unbelievable position where many people remain undiagnosed and only a small proportion are currently accessing and receiving the treatment they need."
HOW TO TELL IF YOU HAVE
In women, if symptoms are present, they may include:
- An unusual vaginal discharge
- A burning feeling when urinating
- Pain during sex
- Bleeding or spotting between periods or bleeding after sex
- Lower abdominal pain.
In men, if symptoms are present, they may include:
- A discharge from the penis
- Discomfort when urinating
- Swollen and sore testes.
- If left untreated, chlamydia can cause pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) in women and that can lead to chronic pain and infertility. In men, it can cause pain and swelling in one or both testicles.
- If detected early, chlamydia can be treated with a single dose of antibiotics.
- Discharge from the vagina or penis
- Pain or burning while urinating
- Swelling and pain in the testicles
- It may occur without symptoms, especially in women.
- Gonorrhea can lead to infertility in women.
- Use condoms (male and female) and dental dams to prevent gonorrhea infection.
- Sore or ulcer on the penis or vagina, anus or mouth
- A flat red skin rash on the feet, hands or the entire body.
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Hair loss
- Pain in the joints
- Flu symptoms
- If not treated, this disease can lead to severe brain and heart complications five to 20 years after contraction.
- There are three stages of syphilis. The first two stages are infectious.
- Syphilis is curable but, if left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious complications.
- A simple blood test can detect syphilis.
- Mild to severe tiredness
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Soreness in the upper right side of the stomach (under the ribs)
- Increased moodiness and depression
- Joint pain or swelling
- In Australia, hepatitis C is most often spread through the sharing of unsterile drug injecting equipment.
- New all-oral combination treatment has greatly improved health outcomes for people with hepatitis C.
- See your doctor immediately if you have any symptoms or if you think you have been put at risk of infection.
If you inject drugs, never share needles and syringes or other equipment such as tourniquets, spoons, swabs or water. Always use sterile needles and syringes. These are available free of charge from needle and syringe programs and some pharmacists. To find out where you can obtain free needles, syringes and other injecting equipment visit www.guild.org.au
Disclosure for all of these diseases
It is important to let your sexual partners know that you have a disease. Your local doctor and sexual health centre can help you to do this.