Health round-up: STIs on the rise, flu-mageddon and smokers still lighting up

Richard Laycock 17 August 2017 NEWS

Sick lady on couch

A weekly round-up of Australia's latest healthcare news.

Cases of gonorrhoea double

The number of Australians being diagnosed with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea, chlamydia and syphilis has increased, according to the latest data from the Kirby Institute.

In 2015, there were 18,588 cases of gonorrhoea reported, up from 15,758 in 2014 and 8,388 in 2006. Since 2006, notification rates have nearly doubled in both males and females.

Chlamydia notifications have also steadily increased, up from 46,145 in 2006 to 66,033 in 2015. Those aged between 15 and 29 accounted for 77% of chlamydia notifications in 2015.

There has also been a sharp increase in the number of people with syphilis, with the total number of cases more than tripling since 2006, from 843 to 2,736 in 2015.

Australia's worst flu season

Have you got the sniffles? Well, you're not alone. 2017 might just be the worst flu season on record.

Across the country, there have been over 30,000 cases of flu reported in July 2017 alone. August looks set to be just as bad, with more than 23,000 flu cases being reported so far this month.

While 2017 hasn't quite hit the record of the 100,590 flu cases that were reported in 2015, it's still early days. With just over half the year gone, there have already been 75,208 cases reported in 2017.

Smokers won't butt it out

Anti-smoking campaigns may not be doing much more than lining government coffers. The rate of people smoking has flatlined since 2013, according to the latest results from the National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016 from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare (AIHW).

“This independent survey conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare shows that there has actually been a marginal increase in the percentage of smokers aged between 30 and 49 over the past three years,” senator David Leyonhjelm said.

In 2016, 12.2% of those over the age of 14 were daily smokers, down just 0.6% since 2013.

However, anti-smoking measures are having their best effect on the young. The average age for someone between 14 and 24 to have their first full cigarette went from 14.2 years old in 1995 to 16.3 in 2016.

What else is happening?

Earlier this week, NSW Health issued a warning for those with respiratory issues, as smoke from planned bush fire prevention affected Sydney's air quality. With summer just around the corner and more back burning on the horizon, it serves as a reminder for those with lung conditions to stay vigilant.

“It’s also a good idea for people with known health conditions to sign up to get air quality reports, forecasts and alerts via email or SMS from the Office of Environment and Heritage, and to check the NSW Rural Fire Service website for regular updates on planned burns,” NSW Health director of environmental health branch Dr Ben Scalley said.

Each week our round-up offers a summary of the latest developments impacting Australian healthcare and most importantly, you, the consumer. Check in every Thursday to find out what's happening in health.

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