width=221There is an alarming rise of gonorrhoea cases in the NSW port city of Newcastle, health authorities warned. More than 40 people have just been recently diagnosed with the sexually transmitted infection (STI) this year, which is more than four times the rate during the same period in 2009.

Dr Treeny Ooi, director of sexual health at Hunter New England Health said, the infection which can lead to infertility, has been increasingly seen in young men and women in their teens and 20s.

Men who have sex with men have been identified as a group of particularly at risk, however heterosexual people have also been infected, said Dr Ooi.

Gonorrhoea often causes no symptoms and people may not be aware that they are infected.

... Too many people are unwittingly infecting their partners and the only way to ensure that you do not have an STI such as gonorrhoea is to have a sexual health check at your doctor.

A total of 41 cases of infection have been seen so far in 2010, compared to nine during the same period in 2009, 29 cases in 2008 and 13 cases in 2007, according to the records of the Newcastle-based sexual health services.

The symptoms of gonorrhoea include discharge from the penis or vagina and pain during the passing of urine or during bowel motions.

Dr Ooi warned, Untreated gonorrhoea can cause serious and permanent health problems in men and women.

It can cause painful infection in the testicles or fallopian tubes that connect the womb to the ovaries and may result in infertility.

The test for the STI is a simple process which can be arranged by seeing a GP, or at a sexual health clinic, says Dr Ooi. Other methods for protection against the virus include using a condom, and routine testing for STIs, especially for sexually-active people.

There is a high awareness about the benefits of condom use but it can be a very different story when it comes to put that knowledge into practice, said Dr Ooi.