Social media fueling STI rates in Alberta: Chief Medical Officer

Dr. Grimsrud says apps like Tinder could be driving the spike in STIs in Alberta.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. — Earlier this week, Alberta’s top doctor said social media apps that promote hook-ups could be behind a huge spike in sexually transmitted infections in the province.

Dr. Karen Grimsrud reported that cases of gonorrhea in Alberta have risen 80 per cent to more than 3,400 cases in 2015, from just under 2,000 cases in 2014 — some of the highest numbers reported since the late 1980s.


She says Edmonton had the some of the most dramatic shift in numbers, where Syphilis rates tripled in the city.

The data released in the announcement was not broken down by region, but numbers from last March show that Grande Prairie holds a higher rate per 100,000 population against the rest of the province when STI numbers are analyzed.

Documents from Alberta Health Services show that, from 2011 to 2014, Grande Prairie’s rate of chlamydia was 646.4, compared to 377 for the rest of the province. Gonorrhea rates held a similar ratio to the rest of the province, at 89 against 49.8 in the rest of Alberta. Syphilis, however, was down to 2.8, against 8.3 for Alberta.

According to Fort McMurray Today, Susan Belcourt-Rothe, the executive director of HIV North, said Fort McMurray sees more of the ‘fly-in, fly-out scene’, but not the transient movement that comes through a community like Grande Prairie.

Comparisons were drawn between the two communities, which both have large populations of young people and nearby oil projects. Reportedly, the chlamydia rate in Fort McMurray was 514.4 of chlamydia in the same time period. Gonorrhea rates were 38.1, and syphilis was at 17.8.

However, it noted that Grande Prairie is also a hub for travellers and truckers, and the service sector makes it appealing for all the smaller, nearby towns to come stop by.

So what about B.C.’s Peace Region, with similar qualities seen in cities like Fort St. John and Dawson Creek? Across the B.C.-Alberta border, there’s a different story.

While numbers from 2014 through the BC Centre for Disease Control only show the average across the entire northeastern region and not for a specific municipality, this section ranked rather low against most other regions when looking at STI rates.

Chlamydia rates in northeastern B.C. were the fourth-highest in the province at a rate of 403.5, behind the Northern Interior at 405.2, 478.8 in northwestern B.C., and 480.8 in Vancouver.

Gonorrhea was lower on the list with 12.5, against several regions that ranged from a rate of 46.1 in the northwest, all the way up to 124.4 in Vancouver.

No cases of Syphilis were listed in this area, along with other regions of the province where no rate, or a practically non-existent one, was.