Today’s lurking Facebook danger is… syphilis?

If the child predators and looming divorces aren’t enough to worry about when you log on to social networking site Facebook, an area in northern England seems to be experiencing a 400% jump in syphilis cases tentatively linked to the popularity of such sites.

The Register cites “reports from doctors and nurses diagnosing and treating patients” and says they “suggest some sufferers are using social networking sites to find and arrange meetings with new lovers.” The potential for casual sex and “high risk sexual encounters” when people meet on Facebook or a similar venue is presumed to be the cause of the jump in syphilis cases. (Though a 400% increase sounds alarming, the number of people infected only increased by 20 to a total of 30 in 2009, versus 10 in 2008.)

The Telegraph indicates that young people in that region use social networking websites more heavily than those in other parts of Britain:

Research has shown that young people in Sunderland, Durham and Teesside were 25 per cent more likely to log onto social networking sites than those in the rest of Britain.

The trend has also affected more young women than men in the area, and Professor Peter Kelly, director of public health in Teesside, cautions that risks associated with the disease such as infertility are also higher in women.