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STD clinic issues safe sex warning after hepatitis B outbreak
Examiner 29.06.2005

By Alan Good

A CLINIC in Cork has dealt with more cases of a sexually transmitted disease in recent months than anywhere else in the country. Doctors at the Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Clinic at the South Infirmary Victoria Hospital have dealt with eight cases of hepatitis B since early March.

"Such numbers of hepatitis B cases have not been seen anywhere else in the country - I would urge people to get vaccinated as hepatitis B is a preventable disease," said Dr Mary Horgan, consultant in infectious diseases. "This is a very worrying trend that is particularly evident in young men in their 20s and early 30s who are holidaying in destinations like Thailand. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of practicing safe sex in order to avoid contracting an STI and other diseases such as HIV."

Hepatitis B is more than 100 times more infectious than HIV, and can lead to cancer of the liver. One-third of adults who contract it will have no visible symptoms of the disease. A spokesperson for the Southern Gay Men's Health Project (SGMHP) warned that practicing safe sex did not guarantee not contracting the disease. "As hepatitis B is so infectious and there is no effective cure for it, we would urge people to get the vaccine, which is available for free from STD clinics or privately from GPs," said the spokesperson. "It has proven to be highly successful, with five years protection once immunity has been reached, and is the only way of preventing contraction."

The increase in hepatitis B cases is mirrored by figures from the HSE's STD clinics in Cork and Kerry, that show a mammoth 2,300% increase in some STDs over the past 10 years. In 1993, there were 15 instances of chlamydia in the region, compared to 356 in 2003, while cases of ano-genital warts rose from 165 to 611 in the same period.