STI hotspots revealed: Map shows the worst areas for chlamydia, gonorrhoea and super illness


London, Lincolnshire and Liverpool are England’s chlamydia hotspots, according to official data. 

Rates of the STI have plunged to a record low. Fewer than 160,000 cases were logged in 2021 — down by a third on pre-pandemic levels. 

Cases had been gradually creeping up before Covid hit but lockdowns saw rates naturally decline, given people were less able to meet up for casual sex and flings. 

But chlamydia rates vary drastically across the country, MailOnline analysis has revealed. 

The equivalent of 3 per cent of people aged 15 to 24 living in Lambeth, a south London borough home to Clapham and Brixton, tested positive for chlamydia last year.

Similar rates were seen in Lewisham, Hackney and North East Lincolnshire.

But at the other end of the scale, confirmed chlamydia cases were 14 times lower in the market town of Horsham, West Sussex.

A dozen boroughs also recorded more cases last year than they did before the pandemic, proving the trend is not universally happening across England.

Official data showed chlamydia rates in young people were nearly 14 times higher in the country’s worst affected area as its least. The illness was detected in 3,063 people aged 15 to 24 per 100,000 in Lambeth, London, in the year up to April 2021. For comparison, only 222 per 100,000 in the age group were infected in the market town of Horsham, West Sussex

Chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed STI, making up 51 per cent of all confirmed cases. However, around 2,000 fewer cases were detected in 2021 compared to 2020

Chlamydia remains the most commonly diagnosed STI, making up 51 per cent of all confirmed cases. However, around 2,000 fewer cases were detected in 2021 compared to 2020

WHERE ARE CLAMYDIA RATES INCREASING QUICKEST? 

Percentage increase 2019 to 2021 

Middlesbrough

Chorley

Dartford

Swale

Ashfield

Redcar and Cleveland

South Ribble

Hartlepool

Stockton-on-Tees

Lincoln

Regional figures for chlamydia, compiled by the UK Health Security Agency, only looks at under-25s, who make up the vast majority of all cases.

The figures are broken down by detection rates, which are the proportion of a population who tested positive within the 12-month period. 

Similar figures were used to track the spread of Covid throughout the pandemic.

For example, Lambeth’s detection rate stood at 3,063 cases per 100,000 people. 

This is effectively the equivalent of 3 per cent of people aged between 15-24 living in the borough having been diagnosed with the bacterial infection within the space of a year. 

Yet, people can test positive twice or more, meaning it is not always a like-for-like figure. 

And, in the exact same fashion as Covid, the stats are entirely based on people who have tested positive. It means thousands of cases will have went undiagnosed and not incorporated in the data. 

Testing rates are still lagging behind pre-Covid levels, charities say.

After Lambeth, the area with the highest chlamydia detection rate in young people was Lewisham — also in the capital — where 2,873 per 100,000 had infections confirmed in 2021.

It was followed by Hackney in London (2,857), North East Lincolnshire (2,631) — home to port town Grimsby — and Southwark (2,564) in the capital.

Meanwhile, only 222 per 100,000 in the age group were infected in Horsham. The next lowest rates were in Mid Sussex (297), Chichester (378) and Adur (380), both in West Sussex.

Cases are growing quickest in Middlesbrough, where 2,262 per 100,000 tested positive last year. It was up 31 per cent on 2019, when the rate was 1,722, the same data suggested.

The other biggest jumps were seen in Chorley (24 per cent), Dartford (21 per cent) and Swale (16 per cent). 

Despite the overall downturn in chlamydia cases — with 2,000 fewer infections confirmed in 2021 — it remains the most commonly diagnosed STI in England, accounting for 51 per cent of all cases. 

Its symptoms include pain when passing urine and unusual discharge from the vagina, penis or anus. 

Women may also suffer tummy pain, bleeding after sex and in between periods. Men may have painful and swollen testicles.

If left untreated, it can cause infertility in women. 

Some 51,074 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed, up by 841 from 2020, according to the UKHSA statistics released yesterday. Again, rates were still below pre-pandemic, with a peak of 70,908 annual cases logged in 2019.

Some 51,074 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed in 2021, up by 841 from 2020. However, rates are still below pre-pandemic, with a peak of 70,908 annual cases logged in 2019

Some 51,074 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed in 2021, up by 841 from 2020. However, rates are still below pre-pandemic, with a peak of 70,908 annual cases logged in 2019

The data revealed that MG rates have soared by a fifth in a year in the space of one year, from 4,230 in 2020 to 5,109 in 2021. However, they are still slightly lower than pre-pandemic rates, with medics logging a sharp decline in STIs as lockdowns and social distancing reduced sexual activity. MG rates had been rising by up to five-fold year-on-year before the pandemic struck, with 431 cases in 2017, 1,981 in 2018 and 5,331 in 2019

The data revealed that MG rates have soared by a fifth in a year in the space of one year, from 4,230 in 2020 to 5,109 in 2021. However, they are still slightly lower than pre-pandemic rates, with medics logging a sharp decline in STIs as lockdowns and social distancing reduced sexual activity. MG rates had been rising by up to five-fold year-on-year before the pandemic struck, with 431 cases in 2017, 1,981 in 2018 and 5,331 in 2019

HOW PREVALENT ARE STIS IN ENGLAND? 

There were 311,604 STIs diagnosed in 2021, according to data from the UK Health Security Agency.

The figure is 0.5 per cent higher than 2020 but a third lower than pre-Covid levels, when 440,000 were diagnosed, on average, each year.

However, testing rates are lower than they were before the pandemic, which may mean some cases are slipping under the radar. 

Chlamydia: 159,448

Gonorrhoea: 51,074

Genital Herpes: 21,649

Mycoplasma genitalium: 5,109

Non-specific genital infection: 14,471

Pelvic inflammatory disease and epididymitis: 10,437

Chlamydial pelvic inflammatory disease and epididymitis: 853

Syphilis: 7,506

Genital warts: 28,280

Other new STI diagnoses: 13,630

Mycoplasma genitalium infections also increased in 2021, although cases are far lower than with the other two diseases. 

The drug-resistant ‘super STI’, similar to chlamydia, can cause infertility in women and cases soared 60-fold over the last decade in England.

More than 5,000 cases of the bacterial infection were logged in England in 2021. 

By comparison, just 79 cases of MG were recorded when experts first proved it was a sexually transmitted infection seven years ago. 

Despite being discovered in the 1980s, very few people, even doctors, knew about it until very recently because it is commonly misdiagnosed as chlamydia, allowing it to quietly grow stronger and spread under the radar. 

And because it has been treated with the wrong drugs, it is growing resistant to antibiotics. 

Some strains are already able to evade potent medicines, meaning patients have to take different drugs to clear the infection.

Most people who carry MG have no symptoms — but can still pass it onto others. Bad cases can cause painful inflammation and watery discharge for men.

But the STI can be more serious for women, potentially causing womb scarring that leaves them infertile.

Overall, there was 311,604 new diagnoses of STIs in England in 2021, up by 0.5 per cent from 309,921 in 2020 but still a third lower than pre-Covid.

For comparison, an average of 440,000 new infections were logged in the five years before the virus first sparked chaos.

But with students returning to universities last week, experts fear infections could return to pre-pandemic levels.

Many areas saw an increase in 2021, when there were fewer Covid restrictions to live by. 

Some 51,074 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed in 2021, up by 841 from 2020. However, rates are still below pre-pandemic, with a peak of 70,908 annual cases logged in 2019

Some 51,074 gonorrhoea cases were diagnosed in 2021, up by 841 from 2020. However, rates are still below pre-pandemic, with a peak of 70,908 annual cases logged in 2019

Mycoplasma genitalium, also known as M. genitalium or M. gen, causes serious symptoms including infertility, but is resistant to four different types of antibiotics. It is estimated that up to one in five sexually active US citizens could have it

Mycoplasma genitalium, also known as M. genitalium or M. gen, causes serious symptoms including infertility, but is resistant to four different types of antibiotics. It is estimated that up to one in five sexually active US citizens could have it

The data also revealed that there was a ‘marked’ eight per cent rise in syphilis cases last year, with 7,506 new diagnoses compared to 6,923 in 2020.

The UKHSA reported that cases had nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels in England and ‘exceeded them’ in some parts of the country.

Syphilis symptoms include small, usually painless, sores on the genitals and anus that sometimes spread to the mouth, lips and hands.

It can also trigger flu-like symptoms, swollen glands and patchy hair loss. If not treated, it can lead to fatal heart and brain problems.

Ian Green, chief executive of sexual health charity Terrence Higgins Trust, said: ‘Levels of syphilis and gonorrhoea remain high while testing levels aren’t back to where they were before Covid. 

‘That’s why we need the Government to set out its vision for sexual and reproductive health in its long over-due sexual and reproductive health action plan. 

‘These latest numbers show why the Government must urgently set out what good looks like with the funding attached to achieve that vision.

‘Currently we have no national goal around sexually transmitted infections despite rates of STIs being unacceptably high for years and certain groups — including young people, gay and bisexual men, people living with HIV and some ethnic minority groups — being disproportionately affected year after year.’

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