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Scotland: Gonorrhea Rise Blamed on Cheap Flights

May 14, 2002

Passengers flying on low-cost airlines are being blamed for an alarming increase in reported cases of gonorrhea in Scotland. It is also feared that long-haul passengers who have been to Thailand and south east Asia, which have thriving sex industries, have brought back a strain of the infection that is resistant to antibiotics. According to Dr. Andy Winter, a consultant at the Sandyford Initiative in Glasgow, Glasgow has the most dramatic rise in cases of gonorrhea. The latest figures show a 365 percent rise in cases since 1994.

According to Dr. Hugh Young of the Scottish Neisseria gonorrhea reference laboratory at Edinburgh University, "Most of the resistant infections occur in heterosexual men who have traveled to Thailand and south east Asia. This can be spread to a regular partner. It is worrying. The levels had fallen in the 1980s and now they are increasing again."

Research shows a strong link between youth and gonorrhea -- in Scotland 68.7 percent of females with the disease are in the 15-to-24 age group. Winter believes that the high rate of gonorrhea infection is an indicator of a future rise in cases of HIV and AIDS. "Traditionally when you see a rise in gonorrhea it is because of a rise in risky sexual behavior. There is a time lag, and then cases of HIV appear."

In March, the Sunday Herald revealed that 75 percent of heterosexuals newly infected with HIV in Scotland have a strain of the infection from Africa or Asia, reinforcing the trend of travel bringing in new strains of disease. Latest figures show 3,342 people in UK have HIV and for the third year running heterosexual diagnosis outnumbers those among gay men.

Experts agree that cases of gonorrhea are higher in areas that are socially and economically deprived, making Glasgow a prime site for more research into patterns of infection. But growing numbers of the infections are also appearing in Aberdeen, Tayside, Grampian and Lothian regions.

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Excerpted from:
The Sunday Herald (Scotland)
05.05.02; James Cruickshank and Jenifer Johnston

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