Luck of the Irish has sex-disease downside

GEORGINA STYLIANOU
Last updated 05:00 12/10/2013

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Irish workers helping with the rebuild are sharing the love but it seems they are also contracting sexual diseases.

While there are no concrete figures to analyse who is giving chlamydia to whom, health data show the number of confirmed cases in the Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB) region has been increasing since 2011.

Board sexual health director Edward Coughlan said the clinic had started recording the number of Irish nationals making appointments, and there had "definitely been an increase" in the past two years.

Christchurch Hospital's emergency department and the sexual health clinic had since started recording the nationalities of all people associated with the rebuild.

Figures for other international workers were not yet available.

Last year the clinic saw 75 Irish people associated with the rebuild. This year that number had jumped to 162.

"Yes, there's been a big increase but it's good that people are making appointments and being proactive."

He said most Irish made appointments for investigation or treatment of a sexually transmitted infection (STI).

"There's definitely a lot of casual love going on in the weekends," he said.

"There's no way to be sure what's really going on out there but we do know we've got increased numbers of people from Ireland and higher numbers of those associated with the rebuild."

CDHB member Aaron Keown said New Zealand historically had high rates of STIs but guessed it would be local women passing infections on to rebuild workers and not the other way around.

"Statistically Kiwi women have been found to have a lot more sexual partners than other women [in other countries] and these Irish lads might not be used to living somewhere with such high STI rates."

He said many women found the Irish accent alluring and "jovial and outgoing" rebuild workers were cashed up and going out regularly.

"If you take one plus one plus one, you get three and that would likely end up as chlamydia."

CDHB figures showed there were 282 confirmed chlamydia cases in 2011 and so far this year there had been 320.

Numbers dipped slightly in 2012 but, compared with 2011, more than 500 additional people were tested for chlamydia.

Data collected by the Environmental Science & Research Public Health Surveillance unit showed there were 172 confirmed cases from March to December 2011.

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In 2012 there were 276 while, in the first three months of this year, almost 100 confirmed cases of chlamydia.

Data released yesterday showed there had been 106 confirmed cases from April to June.

ESR lab data also showed gonorrhoea had been climbing in Canterbury since 2011 - from three cases per quarter, to seven, 11, 15, 18, and 19 and 20 cases confirmed between April and June alone.

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- Fairfax Media

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