Last year, the number of gonorrhea infections almost doubled in Finland. Many people may still mistakenly consider gonorrhea to be a rare sexually transmitted disease.
Last year, a record number of gonorrhea infections were found in Finland. There were about a thousand infections, almost double the number from the previous year.
The infection has become more common, especially among young women, says Tuula Hanila-Handelberg, chief physician at the Institute for Health and Wellness (THL), although most gonorrhea infections are still found in men, especially in the 25-35 age group. , Information is from THL’s Infectious Disease Register.
– 200-300 gonorrhea infections were found per year for a long time. In 2016, says Hanila-Handelberg, the number of infections began to increase and by last year was 400-600 per year.
The increase in infections is explained by the fact that today more and more gonorrhea infections are asymptomatic and are found incidentally in STD tests. When there are no symptoms, infection is not suspected and the disease may have spread for a long time before applying for the test.
Above all, gonorrhea is particularly contagious, says dermatologist Ija Hiltunen-Bäck from the Sexual Diseases Outpatient Clinic in Hus.
Gonorrheal infections of the pharynx and anus, in particular, often remain asymptomatic.
Hiltunen-Back believes that many people still consider gonorrhea to be a rare disease and that is why they are not afraid of getting it.
Healthcare professionals should also offer tests more actively, Hiltunen-Bäck explains.
According to them, there is an increased gonorrhea infection not only among young women but also among those who enjoy sex between men.
If gonorrhea does cause symptoms, the symptoms may be similar to those of chlamydia: burning when urinating, pain in the lower abdomen, or excess discharge. If left untreated for a long time, gonorrhea and chlamydia can cause infertility.
Chlamydia is by far the most common sexually transmitted disease in Finland, and chlamydia infection has become even more common over the long term, Hanila-Handelberg says.
Last year, there were a little less than 17,000 infections. Chlamydia is also often asymptomatic, which is why many people do not know they are infected and therefore do not apply for testing.
Chlamydia infection is most common in 15-29-year-olds. About 60 percent of known infections are in women and a good 40 percent in men.
Syphilis also became common in Finland in the last year, according to Hanila-Handelberg. There have long been about 200 syphilis infections per year, compared with nearly double the number last year. Syphilis infection is more common in men, and especially in sex between men. Syphilis is easily contagious and is often symptomless, at least initially.
Hiltunen-Bäck points out that not all syphilis infections in the past year are recent infections, but are found in connection with immigration examinations, for example, from refugees who have previously had syphilis and whose infection has serological traces in their blood. Are. Such once treated infections are no longer contagious.
Chlamydia and gonorrhea can be detected from a urine sample and syphilis from a blood sample, and these are diseases that can be treated with antibiotics. Infections of the pharynx and anus are screened from mucosal specimens.
Part of the increase in the number of confirmed STD infections last year can be explained by the fact that people may have applied for tests after the pandemic. However, this doesn’t explain almost everything, as tests were also available in Finland during the pandemic, and, for example, visits to the venereal disease outpatient clinic in Hus were common, notes Hiltunen-Bäck.
– On the other hand, if some people missed the test due to corona and therefore fell sick for a long time, it can now be seen in the statistics. In general, the lifting of pandemic restrictions and an increase in social gatherings, parties and travel are likely to increase infections.
Hiltunen-Back believes that condom use can also be compromised.
– For example, in sex between men, the fear of HIV has decreased over the years, when it has become possible to protect yourself from HIV with the help of preventive medicine. Plus, it may be forgotten that these other diseases can still be transmitted through unprotected sex.
Hiltunen-Back also considers it problematic in terms of the spread of infection that almost all concerned do not necessarily receive information about possible infection.
In order to break the chain of infection, the infected person must keep in touch with their previous sexual partners, so that they also know how to apply for testing and how to treat the disease.
– It may be the case, for example, that the infected person does not have the contact information of his former sex partners. Sometimes the matter may not be reported due to shame.