Historic surge: Gonorrhoea hits unprecedented highs in Humberside

Government advisors call for targeted vaccination
Ivan Morris Poxton

Ivan Morris Poxton

Historic surge: Gonorrhoea hits unprecedented highs in Humberside

A biblical disease has hit a record high prevalence in 21st century Humberside

There were more cases in 2022 of the sexually transmitted disease (STD) gonorrhoea in England than at any time since records began more than 100 years ago. In Hull, there were a record 282 infections last year, almost triple the number the year before.

Hull and North East Lincolnshire had some of the highest infection rates in the country, with more than 100 per 100,000 people on average infected. Government advisers have called for a vaccination programme to target the increased threat.

Latest NHS data shows Hull’s 282 gonorrhoea infections last year was nearly triple the 101 the year before and 17 per cent more than pre-pandemic in 2019. It had a rate of infection of 105.8 per 100,000, meaning one person in every thousand in Hull had the disease.

East Riding had a lower rate of 65.6 cases per 100,000, or one infection for every 1,500 people. But it also saw a record number of infections last year, with 225 cases. This was more than quadruple the 53 cases in 2021.

North East Lincolnshire had a record 251 gonorrhoea infections last year, up 264 per cent on 2021, and five per cent higher than 2019. It also had a rate of 159.7 per 100,000 people – one infection for every 600 people.

In North Lincolnshire, there were a record 113 cases last year, up nine from the year before. Its infection rate was 66.5 per 100,000 people.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised the government to offer a targeted vaccination programme to prevent its spread. The JCVI says evidence shows the 4CMenB vaccine, currently used to protect children from meningitis and septicaemia, offers some protection against gonorrhoea.

“Introducing a MenB vaccination programme to prevent gonorrhoea in England would be a world first and should significantly help to reduce levels of gonorrhoea, which are currently at a record high,” said Professor Andrew Pollard, JCVI chair.

Symptoms of the disease, formerly known as “the clap”, include a thick green or yellow discharge from the vagina or penis, pain when peeing and, in women, bleeding between periods. It was first described by Albert Neisser in 1879, but gonorrhoea existed long before then.

In 130AD, Roman physician Galen described it as an “involuntary escape of semen”. The disease is thought to be referenced in the bible, particularly in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus, which warns: “The man that hath an issue of seed, shall be unclean.”

Another STD on the rise is syphilis. It increased by 15 per cent last year in England, to nearly 8,700 diagnoses, Public Health England data showed. Numbers are very low in northern Lincolnshire though – there were 15 cases altogether, and only three of these in North East Lincolnshire.

To find your nearest sexual health clinic, click here: https://www.nhs.uk/service-search/find-a-sexual-health-clinic