The prevalence of the STI gonorrhoea can be considered a marker for the sexual activity of our nation and the figures aren’t good.

In 2017, there were nearly 50,000 cases of gonorrhoea in the UK, making up more than half the European total of almost 90,000.

Apparently it’s our careless habit of having sex without condoms that’s responsible for us having more of these infections than all other European countries put together. Why?

Experts suggest it’s not helped by dating apps – and the actual figures make scary reading.

For every 100,000 people in the UK, there are around 75 cases of ­gonorrhoea, three times the average for the continent. Second in the league table is France which, despite having roughly the same number of people

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as the UK, had only 9,177 cases of ­gonorrhoea, a fraction of the UK rate.

In the whole of Europe, reports of the STI rose by 17% in 2017, in what has been described as an “epidemic”.

Gonorrhoea seen under the microscope

Gonorrhoea, known as the clap, is the second most common STI in the UK after chlamydia, and it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease in women and infertility.

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It’s caused by a bacterium, ­gonococcus, which spreads via bodily fluids from the penis and vagina and is passed on during vaginal, anal or oral sex.

Symptoms include pain when you pass urine and around the genital area, and an unusual thick discharge which may be white, green or yellow.

While primarily an infection of the reproductive tract, gonorrhoea can spread elsewhere in the body – the joints can sometimes be infected.

In addition, it’s also thought that online dating could be to blame, and because gonorrhoea is a strong marker for sex without condoms, it could be an ­expression of careless sexual habits.

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Liverpool’s Centre for Sexual Health consultant Dr Mark Lawton adds: “The increases in ­gonorrhoea likely relate to an increase in frequency ­­and number of partners, perhaps facilitated by online dating and hook-up apps.”

Cases of gonorrhoea among women rose by 15% in the year from 2016 to 2017, which is very worrying because of its potential impact on fertility.

Almost half (47%) of all Europe’s ­gonorrhoea infections, however, were diagnosed among gay men.

So how do we counteract this epidemic? We need more open ­discussions and de-stigmatisation to promote positive sexual health and to encourage regular testing for STIs.

And that’s certainly easier said than done.

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