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Home News Rates of syphilis increase in Alberta

Rates of syphilis increase in Alberta

EDMONTON, AB – Infectious and congenital syphilis rates have escalated across the province over the past five years, with a sharp increase in 2018.

Due to the rapid increase in syphilis cases, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has declared a provincial outbreak and is encouraging Albertans to get tested and protect themselves.

“We need to emphasize for all Albertans: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a risk to anyone who is sexually active, particularly people who have new sex partners and are not using protection. I encourage anyone who is sexually active to get tested regularly. Anyone in Alberta can access STI testing and treatment for free,” said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health.

In 2018, a total of 1,536 cases of infectious syphilis were reported compared to 161 in 2014, almost a tenfold increase. The government shares this rate of infectious syphilis has not been this high in Alberta since 1948.While congenital syphilis cases were rare before the outbreak, There were 22 congenital syphilis cases between 2014 and 2018, one of which was stillborn. Congenital syphilis, which occurs when a child is born to a mother with syphilis, is a severe, disabling and life-threatening disease.Consistent and correct condom use is an important protection against STIs such as syphilis.

As with other STIs, the symptoms of syphilis may not be obvious.

Health experts recommend sexually active people, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation, get tested every three to six months if they:

  • have a sexual partner with a known STI
  • have a new sexual partner or multiple or anonymous sexual partners
  • have a previous history of an STI diagnosis
  • have been sexually assaulted

It is critical that anyone who is pregnant seeks early prenatal care and testing for syphilis during pregnancy.

Anyone experiencing STI-related symptoms should seek testing and speak to a family doctor to find testing and treatment options.

In the 2018 case counts for infectious syphilis by AHS zone:

    • South Zone: 31 cases, an increase of 138.5 percent compared to 2017
    • Calgary Zone: 206 cases, an increase of 7.3 percent compared to 2017
    • Central Zone: 88 cases, an increase of 266.7 percent compared to 2017
    • Edmonton Zone: 977 cases, an increase of 305.4 percent compared to 2017
    • North Zone: 208 cases, an increase of 324.5 percent compared to 2017

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