The form of transmission of Covid-19 is produced by the droplets that we produce when coughing, sneezing, or talking, so ensuring the safety distance is a basic preventive measure. So goodbye to kisses, hugs, and sex?
Much has been said about sexual relations about the pandemic and practically all specialists recommend the same. Prudence.
In the case of stable couples, it would not be necessary to avoid sexual intercourse, unless one of the two is infected, or has been exposed to a risk situation.
Another issue is sporadic or new relationships. This is where prudence should guide our behavior avoiding certain practices, such as oral sex and casual relationships or with people we do not know.
These recommendations, along with social distancing measures and confinement, have likely changed the sexual behavior of many.
But what happened to sexually transmitted infections during the pandemic?
Gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, granuloma venereum … Every day more than a million people contract a sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the world. It is a growing health problem at a global level with a progressive increase in its incidence.
In fact, in Spain, since the beginning of the year 2000, there has been a growing trend of gonococcal infections and syphilis.
And during confinement?
A study carried out by dermatologists and other specialists in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from 2 health centers and 2 hospitals in Madrid and Malaga, has analyzed what happened between March 14 and June 30, 2020, and compared it with the 2019 situation.
According to the study released by the Spanish Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (AEDV), measures to limit mobility and social distancing have had a positive effect in terms of reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted infections (STIs). ).
Eloy Tarín Vicente, the main author of the study and dermatology resident at the University Hospital of La Paz, points out that if the data on STIs are compared with the same period in 2019, “we see a clear decrease in consultations for any cause in all centers and also a significant reduction in the number of diagnosed STIs, of up to approximately 80% for some diagnoses ”.
The specialists in venereology participating in the study point to two probable causes of the decrease in infections. On the one hand, Dr. Sendagorta Cudós, a specialist in Dermatology at the La Paz University Hospital, assures that “what we have seen is that confinement was effective, in order to reduce the spread of communicable infections. Not only COVID-19, also STIs ”.
On the other hand, “probably, the patients considered that they should only go to a consultation in the most serious or acute situations, and avoided requesting medical help in person due to the risk of contagion by SARS-CoV-2.” This would have meant that many of the sexually transmitted infections were not diagnosed or treated between March and June.
Even so, it is striking that the decline in STIs in our country has not occurred in other parts of Europe with a really high incidence of coronavirus, as is the case in Italy.
According to data from a study carried out in Milan, recently presented at the Congress of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology, an increase in acute bacterial infections occurred in that city between March 15 and April 14, including syphilis and gonorrhea, despite an overall decrease in the number of consultations for STI reasons.
Age and gender of those affected by STIs
According to this descriptive study, 674 cases of STI were treated in 665 patients distributed among the 4 centers participating in the study.
Analyzed by age, it is observed that the highest number of cases occurred between the ages of 20 and 40, (68.57%) and its distribution by gender shows that 86.47% of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) were diagnosed in men.
The most frequent infections detected in the study period were first proctitis, rectal inflammation (36.5%), followed by syphilis (16%), gonorrhea (13.35%) and non-gonococcal urethritis (11,285 ), genital herpes (8.75%), vulvoganitis / cervitis (8.31%) and condylomas (4.15%).
Due to the workload that the detection of SARS-COV2 in patients caused in the microbiological services of hospitals and health centers, it was only possible to diagnose 77% of the cases, the main microorganisms involved being Chlamydia Trachomatis (35.65%), followed by Neisseria Gonorrhoeae (31.41%) and Treponema Pallidum (17%).
The analysis of the distribution of the cases according to the consultation dates shows a clear increase in STIs after deconfinement, explained by the greater freedoms and possibilities of exposure and contagion.
This increase in consultations, the improvement of the health situation in hospitals, and the gradual disappearance of the fear of contagion of the coronavirus probably also had an influence.
Main sexually transmitted infections
According to data from the National Epidemiological Surveillance Network, chlamydia is the sexually transmitted disease with the highest incidence in our country. Specifically, in 2018, 13,109 cases were reported.
The bacteria responsible for this infection is Chlamydia trachomatis and it can be contracted when having sex without a condom with a person who has the infection, through anal, vaginal, or oral sex.
It is very common among young people or with multiple sexual partners who do not take adequate preventive measures.
The most common symptoms among women who suffer from them are changes in the smell, color, or amount of vaginal discharge, bleeding between periods, or a burning sensation when urinating.
Men may also have burning when urinating, as well as discharge from the end of the penis and testicular pain.
Without proper treatment, it can have serious health consequences. Men can develop a very painful infection in the testicles, and it can even cause arthritis.
Chlamydial infection in women can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, and ectopic pregnancies, produced outside the uterus.
Another of the most common STIs is gonorrhea, caused by a bacterium called Neisseria Gonorrhoeae and contracted in the same way as chlamydia.
It causes the same symptoms as chlamydia (itching when urinating, testicular pain, changes in vaginal discharge …), although many infected do not present discomfort of any kind
If gonorrhea is treated early, it is unlikely to lead to long-term health problems. But without treatment, the consequences can be serious. Like chlamydia, it can cause pelvic inflammatory disease, infertility, or pregnancies outside the uterus in women, and infection of the testicles, skin, or joints in men.
The best prevention is the use of a condom.
Finally, there is syphilis, which is also caused by a bacterium, treponema pallidum, and which is transmitted in the same way as the Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) already seen.
The symptoms of this infection are the same in men and women, and it consists of 4 stages:
– Primary syphilis: Appearance of a non-painful ulcer in that part of the body that has been in contact with the bacteria, generally 2-3 weeks after having sex with an infected person. The infection is transmitted to the sexual partner through contact with these ulcers.
– Secondary syphilis: If treatment is not carried out, the disease progresses to this phase due to the proliferation of bacteria in the blood. It usually occurs 3-6 weeks after the appearance of the primary syphilis ulcer. Its symptoms include a skin rash, which often affects the palms of the hands and soles of the feet, localized swelling in the genital area, white patches in the mouth, and swollen glands.
Without treatment, these rashes disappear after several weeks, although the disease does not. It remains in the patient’s body and progresses to the next phase.
– Latent syphilis: When the symptoms of secondary syphilis have disappeared, symptoms may not occur for several years, but the infection is present and can be detected through a blood test.
– Tertiary syphilis: About 1 in 10 people with untreated syphilis will develop serious neurological, osteoarticular, or cardiac problems, many years after infection.
Again the condom is the best form of prevention of syphilis, although it is recommended that we refrain from having sexual relations in case we know that we are infected.
And beware! Having and overcoming any of these infections in the past does not prevent you from getting it again.