THE NUMBER of people suffering with syphilis, the most dangerous type of sexually transmitted infection, is now at its greatest since 1949.

In ten years incidences of the infection which, if left untreated, can cause blindness, harm babies in the womb, and even kill, have risen by 148 per cent said Public Health England. Incidences across the country rose by 20 per cent from 5,955 in 2016 to 7,137 in 2017.

And incidents of gonorrhoea - often viewed as the second most serious sexual disease - have rocketed too. Cases increased by 22 per cent from 36,577 in 2016 to 44,676 in 2017.

Local authority breakdowns are not included in the figures, released yesterday. However, a regional breakdown reveals that children as young as 13 have been accessing Specialist Health Services in the south west, which includes Dorset.

Figures show that 68 boys aged 13-14 accessed specialist sexual health services from 2016-2017, with more than 6,000 men aged 15-19 asking for help. More than 2,000 men aged over 65 sought advice from the service.

However, these figures were dwarfed by the numbers of females seeking help for suspected sexually transmitted infections. More than 600 girls aged 13-14 accessed the south west's specialist sexual health services in 2017, and more than 21,000 women aged 15-19. More than 1,200 women aged over 65 sought help, too.

According to Public Health England young people aged 16-24 are most at risk of STIs along with men who have sex with other men.

But it isn’t all bad news. Reports of genital warts have declined overall by seven per cent, reflecting the success of the national HPV vaccine programme.

Public Health England has made a number of recommendations, including a call for an annual chlamydia test for anyone under the age of 25 who is sexually active or who has changed partner, and ‘consistent and correct use of condoms’.