Health watchdog: ‘Significant’ surge in syphilis cases

There was a surge of 22% in the number of clinically confirmed cases of syphilis last year, new figures show.

The HSE’s Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) described the increase in the sexually transmitted infection in 2015 as “significant”.

The health watchdog expects that the final number of confirmed syphilis cases will be even higher when all of the enhanced surveillance forms are returned.

The HPSC provisional data on sexually transmitted infections shows that four out of the five reported cases of syphilis are among men who have sex with men.

It points out that sexually transmitted infections accounted for 43% of all notifiable diseases last year.

There were 249 confirmed cases of syphilis in 2015, compared to 204 the previous year, with 60% of the cases among people aged between 20 and 34.

Men having sex with men was the mode of transmission for 82% (205) of the syphilis cases and in 30 cases it was transmitted heterosexually. Women accounted for 10 of the cases.

There has been concern that young people under 25 and men who have sex with men continue to be disproportionately affected by STIs.

The HPSC says safer sex practices and regular testing are crucial in the prevention of STIs.

Health watchdog: ‘Significant’ surge in syphilis cases

Cases of chlamydia increased slightly — up 2% to 6,815, as did cases of genital herpes simplex, up 3% to 1,275.

Half of the chlamydia cases, which can lead to infertility in women, were among those aged 15 to 24 years.

According to the provisional data, chlamydia was confirmed in 11 boys and six girls under the age of 15 last year. The disease was also confirmed in 632 teenagers — 496 girls and 136 boys.

Of the confirmed cases of herpes simplex, there was one boy and two girls under the age of 15. There were 132 teenagers who had contracted the STI — 11 boys and 121 girls.

The first outbreak of sexually transmitted enteric infection — involving fecal-oral contamination was reported towards the end of last year.

An outbreak control team was established to investigate cases of shigellosis among men who have sex with men and control measures were instigated.

The epidemic remains under investigation and a total of 32 cases have been linked to date, including five cases this year.

The Department of Public Health, HSE East, the HSE Gay Men’s Health Service (GMHS), Gay Health Network (GHN), and HPSC have produced health promotion materials for men who have sex with men and they can be accessed at

A list of STI clinics is available at


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