HEALTH officials are warning people to take precautions following a 59 per cent increase in syphilis cases across the south west.

Public Health England has launched a new push for its sexual health protection campaign, “Protect Against STIs”, which highlights the increased likelihood of contracting a life-changing STI (sexually transmitted infection) if people have sex without a condom.

In 2017, there were 274 syphilis cases compared to 172 the previous year.

Thara Raj, consultant in health protection for Public Health England South West, said: “It’s always best to use a condom with new partners and remember that a condom is just as important for oral sex.

"If changing partners frequently regular testing for STIs is also important.

“Treatment of syphilis is highly effective and if you are concerned you have picked up an infection through sex get in touch with your local sexual health clinic for further advice and treatment as soon possible.”

“If syphilis is left untreated it could spread to the brain or other parts of the body and cause serious, long-term problems."