THERE has been a “surge” in students getting screened for sexually transmitted diseases since the large outbreak of gonorrhoea at University of Limerick in December, the Limerick Leader has learned.
The HSE has confirmed that, at a recent screening it facilitated, 367 students were tested for STDs.
Last December, the Student Health Centre issued an e-mail to more than 17,000 students, alerting them of a gonorrhoea and chlamydia outbreak on campus.
Fourteen gonorrhoea cases were confirmed at UL, at the time. Figures released by the HSE show that there were, in total, 98 cases of gonorrhoea in the whole of the Mid-West in 2016.
The HSE told the Limerick Leader that, of the 367 students screened, one person tested positive for gonorrhoea, while 20 cases of chlamydia were detected.
Dr Jason McMahon, a GP at Treaty Medical Centre on the Ennis Road, said that the recent outbreak has prompted a “surge” in students getting tested for sexually transmitted disease, this semester.
“It drives it forward and gets people talking, but it has to be a constant thing, really, because the next batch of students, it will be nine days’ wonder, unless there is constant reminding and promotion,” he told the Leader.
Dr McMahon, who is seeing an increase of young people at his clinic, said that people who are not engaging in safe sex will require a screening.
“With a lot of people who come into me, they say: ‘How often should I be getting this done, doc?’ They are delighted that they have actually got it done, and then they ask how often they should be getting it done. It is a constant thing. Every time you are exposed, you have to get it done again. And that’s where the message has to be put across.”
He said that the more the issue is discussed, the more the stigma surrounding it will be reduced.
“I hope that this surge – and it is unfortunate that there would be an outbreak of anything – but I would hope that something good can come out of it,” Dr McMahon added.
He said that the HSE has been pushing safer sex campaigns for a long time. The most recent screening took place at UL on February 2.
“I think they jumped on the back of what was happening there as an example of the need.”
The doctor said that a heightened awareness needs to be created during Freshers’ Week. The city-based GP added that herpes and genital warts are also frequent occurrences amongst the student population.
In December, the HSE said it was “concerned” about an increase in the incidence of Gonorrhoea infection in the Mid-West, with a large jump particularly in the under-20 age group. In an earlier interview, Dr McMahon said that gonorrhoea can have “serious consequences”, if left untreated.
“It can have fertility issues in females, and it can have chronic pain issues in females. There are chronic pain issues in males. Gonorrhoea tends to be symptomatic more of the time than chlamydia.
“But they can both cause problems, and they can both cause pelvic inflammatory disease in females, which can, in fact, scar up fallopian tubes and cause fertility problems later in life.”