Infectious diseases, particularly sexually transmitted diseases and travel related infections are on the rise in Finland.
According to the latest data from the National Infectious Diseases Register released by the National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), the number of sexually transmitted diseases "increased significantly" in 2019.
Chlamydia is the most common sexually transmitted disease in Finland. Almost 16,200 chlamydia infections were diagnosed last year, which is more than 1,000 more than in 2018. "This is the largest number ever reported" to the register during one year, THL said in a press release.
The infections focus on young adults: almost 80% were diagnosed in 15-29-year-olds.
Gonorrhoea and syphilis infections also increased last year. More than 600 infections were diagnosed, which is about 100 more than in the previous year. Almost 250 gonorrhoea infections were diagnosed, which is about 60 more cases than in 2018.
‘The number of sexually transmitted diseases has been on the rise for several years. It is possible, that testing activity has increased, and attempts have been made to make it easier in the municipalities, for example, by means of remote testing. Condom is the only method of contraception that also protects against sexually transmitted diseases’, says Tuula Hannila-Handelberg, Chief Physician at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.
Malaria infections from Africa
The number of travel-related infections was also slightly higher than usual. More diseases that spread through mosquito bites, such as malaria, dengue and chikungunya, were diagnosed than in the previous year.
In particular, the proportion of dangerous falciparum malaria in all malaria infections increased. Last year, there were 43 infections, while in 2018 a total of 24 infections were diagnosed. All malaria infections diagnosed in Finland originated in Africa.
‘In tropical destinations, you should protect yourself against mosquitoes also in cities and during the day. The best thing to do is to wear lightweight and pale-coloured clothes and sometimes add a mosquito repellent on top of the suntan lotion. In high-risk malaria countries, malaria medication should also be taken’, says Hannila-Handelberg.
Different intestinal infections are fairly common infectious diseases.
Last year, in particular, there was a clear increase in the number of norovirus infections. In 2019, more than 3,000 of them were diagnosed, which is almost 1,000 more than in the previous year. Norovirus is the most common stomach virus and one of the most common causes of food and waterborne epidemics.
However, intestinal infections caused by campylobacter decreased. In 2019, more than 4,000 infections were diagnosed, which is over 700 less than in the previous year. Campylobacter is the most common intestinal infectious bacteria in Finland.
‘Confirmed intestinal infections represent only a small proportion of all infections, as not all carriers of abdominal infections are tested", Hannila-Handelberg points out.