THE University of Limerick has confirmed that 14 cases of gonorrhoea are "associated with the campus", following an urgent alert about sexually transmitted diseases sent out to its student population.
Director of Student Services Dr Bernadette Walsh said that the Student Health Centre had been proactively screening for STIs and that this may "account for the increased levels of detection".
"According to the most up-to-date figures that we have access to, there have been 97 cases of gonorrhoea in counties Clare, Limerick and Tipperary during 2016. 14 of these are associated with this campus, which consists of approximately 15,000 students.
"We have taken the proactive step, working closely with the HSE, of sending out a strongly-worded message to our student community alerting them to this public health issue because we take the wellbeing of our students very seriously.
"The health of all students is paramount. Therefore, we would advise any student who may have a concern about any element of their mental or physical health to seek appropriate medical treatment," she said.
The HSE has said it is "concerned" about an increase in the incidence of Gonorrhoea infection in the Mid-West. It said that in 2015 there were 55 cases - in 2016 there have been 98 to date.
"A particular increase has been seen in those aged less than 20 years old, with 28 cases reported this year in this age group as compared to 11 in 2015," it said.
It said there had also been an increase in notifications of Chlamydia in 2016, with 516 cases compared to 454 for the whole of 254.
Earlier, an ‘urgent alert’ was sent to all students in UL, warning of ‘an outbreak of Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia on campus’.
The email notification, sent out at 11.07am this Wednesday morning, said that the Student Health Centre “has been notified that there is an outbreak of Gonorrhoea and Chlamydia on campus”.
The centre confirmed to the Limerick Leader that the alert had been sent out and was genuine.
The email warned: “These are sexually transmitted diseases as a result of unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex.
“It is possible to have these conditions without having any type of symptoms. If you have had unprotected sex or have any concerns we would strongly advise you to contact the Student Health Centre or your GP,” it adds.
The University confirmed in a statement that it was "working closely with the HSE following the identification of an increase in the number of students presenting with gonorrhoea and/or chlamydia to the UL Student Health Centre.
"As is best practice, UL has rolled out an awareness campaign contacting every student directly. In accordance with HSE protocols students are being urged to present to the STI and/or the GP clinics run by the UL Student Health Centre should they have concerns with regard to any element of their health and to get the necessary treatment.
"All students who present are currently being seen with or without an appointment and UL will continue to work closely with the HSE to ensure all awareness and treatment protocols are fully adhered to."