Syphilis cases increase significantly in N.W.T. amid outbreak

·1 min read
These new cases represent a significant rate increase, dramatically exceeding that seen in 2019, said a Tuesday news release from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Kami Kandola. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)
These new cases represent a significant rate increase, dramatically exceeding that seen in 2019, said a Tuesday news release from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer, Dr. Kami Kandola. (Walter Strong/CBC - image credit)

There has been a significant increase in syphilis cases as the Northwest Territories continues to deal with an outbreak declared in 2019.

There have been 37 cases of syphilis reported since Jan. 1, with the majority of them (78 per cent) in Yellowknife.

"This represents a significant rate increase, dramatically exceeding that seen in 2019," said a Tuesday release from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection which causes long-term, serious disease if not treated.

Adults between ages 20 and 60 are experiencing high rates of infection, the release said, with those aged 30 to 39 most impacted.

Northwest Territories residents can lower their risk of getting syphilis by having healthy sexual relationships, using condoms during vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and getting tested if they are in a new sexual relationship or have any concerns.

Since 2019, two mothers have passed the syphilis infection to a developing newborn during pregnancy, resulting in congenital syphilis, which can cause serious health issues including stillbirth, neonatal death, or severe chronic health conditions.

In response to the outbreak, the release says the following actions are being taken:

  • A dedicated phone in Yellowknife that provides confidential advice — call or text 867-446-5113.

  • Rapid access to syphilis and other sexually transmitted infection testing in Yellowknife.

  • Enhanced syphilis testing for pregnant people.

  • Expanded walk-in clinic hours.

  • Cross-training more frontline staff to assist with patient assessments and follow-up.

  • Targeted social marketing and ads.

More information on syphilis can be found here.

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