Syphilis rise in Herefordshire prompts special clinics
A dedicated clinic has been set up to deal with a rise in syphilis cases in Herefordshire.
Last year, 20 cases of the sexually transmitted infection were reported, compared to less than five in 2010, the Health Protection Agency (HPA) said.
The cases are primarily among men who have sex with other men. It is infectious in its early stages and symptoms may not be immediate.
The clinic is on Wednesday nights at Hereford's Gaol Street Health Centre.
Men who are concerned that they may have put themselves at risk can also visit any other genito-urinary medicine (GUM) clinic.
End Quote Dr Naveed Sayed HPA
There is cause for concern, which is why the Health Protection Agency is involved”
The infection usually begins with painless but infectious ulcers or sores which clear up on their own in two to six weeks before a rash appears on the body, anywhere between six weeks to six months after infection.
If left untreated, over time syphilis can damage the heart, joints and nervous system, the HPA said.
Dr Naveed Sayed, from the HPA, said: "It's not solely confined to the gay community.
"It's also amongst people who have more than one partner and people who change partners more frequently.
"These are the people most at risk which can be quite serious.'Tackle the problems'
"There is cause for concern, which is why the Health Protection Agency is involved, but that is not something that is unusual.
"Certainly when we see a rise in any disease, whether it's TB, the winter vomiting bug or, something like syphilis, we work very closely with our local partners in the NHS to try to tackle the problems."
The number of cases in 2010 in the county are recorded in the general category of "less than five", the HPA said.
Since the late 90s there has been a sharp rise in cases of syphilis, most in homosexual men, experts have said.
In November, the British Association for Sexual Health and HIV raised concerns about several outbreaks among heterosexual teenagers with clusters of cases reported in Teesside, Hampshire, Rochdale and central Scotland.
The rise in cases in Herefordshire is not part of the national trend, the HPA added.