Summer of salmonella, stings and STDs 

SUMMER is not just a time for surf and sand. It is also a season for salmonella scares, sexually transmitted infections and stings, health authorities have warned.

Hunter New England Health public health physician David Durrheim said salmonella poisoning rates in the region had steadily increased in the past four year years.

The number of reported infections grew from 181 in 2008 (January-October) to 245 for the same period this year.

The poisonings typically originated from poorly cooked or chilled private food consumption, Dr Durrheim said.

He said poisonings tended to peak in spring and summer when people took food on picnics or overstocked the fridge in the festive season.

"Most of the cases are linked to poor temperature control and poor food preparation," he said.

"Even though in most people it's a dose of the runs, it can be very unpleasant for vulnerable people, it can actually cause loss of life."

Spring and summer also meant more young people were out connecting, and copulating.

Sexually transmitted infections, in particular chlamydia, had been on the increase and spiked during the warmer months, especially among young people, Dr Durrheim said.

Chlamydia cases in the Hunter have risen from 1716 in 2009 (January-October) to 2364 for the same period this year.

"There are lots of [sexually transmitted infections] around and young people really need to take care," Dr Durrheim said.

Chlamydia is often symptom-less but if left untreated can cause chronic pain and infertility in women.

It is prevented by practising safe sex and, if detected, easily treated with antibiotics.

Dr Durrheim said mosquito season was expected to begin soon when November rains and Christmas high tides created ideal breeding conditions.

The stinging swarms would also bring with them a rise in mosquito-borne infections including Ross River fever and Barmah Forest virus.

Ross River fever cases have jumped from 59 to 135 in the past two years.

To avoid mosquito-borne infections, cover up exposed skin at high-risk times such as at dawn and dusk, Dr Durrheim advised.

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