Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland syphilis cases 'worrying'

Health experts have said they are seeing a worrying rise in cases of the sexually transmitted infection syphilis in Northern Ireland.

One doctor has even reported regular cases of babies being affected by the disease.

The latest figures on syphilis in Northern Ireland are from 2011.

They show 52 new cases in that year, but sexual health workers on the frontline have said the numbers today are far higher.

A decade ago the disease was almost eradicated in Northern Ireland, but it is now being described as a "daily occurrence".

If left untreated, the STI can cause mental deterioration, blindness, deafness and lead to a range of issues with the central nervous system.

It is not just adults having unprotected sex who fall victim to the infection.

It can be transferred to unborn babies, causing miscarriages, premature births and stillbirths.

Dr Wallace Dinsmore of the Royal Victoria Hospital said: "Syphilis is something that we thought had gone, now it is a daily occurrence.

"We have cases of babies affected by syphilis once every two weeks."

Dr Gary Smyth, medical director at Randox Health, said: "We need to encourage anyone who thinks they may be infected to get tested, whether that is by using a kit at home or by visiting the GUM clinic''.

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