Syphilis Outbreak - Cases Continue to Rise in Alberta

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Albertans are being warned about the risks of sexually transmitted infections, due to a significant rise in the number of syphilis cases.

More than 200 cases of infectious syphilis were recorded in Alberta last year, an increase of almost 40 per cent from the previous year. The outbreak is wide-spread occurring in teenagers as young as 15 years of age as well senior citizens as old as 81. Also of concern are nine recorded cases of congenital syphilis, babies born with the infection, in the last two years.

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"Syphilis is becoming a very serious problem in Alberta - with the number of cases increasing quickly," said Dr. Ameeta Singh, Infectious Diseases Medical Consultant with Alberta Health and Wellness. "The increasing number of babies being born with congenital syphilis is especially of concern as these children will have health problems and the situation could have been prevented."

The Alberta government is launching an awareness campaign this month to help stop the spread of syphilis and raise public awareness about this preventable disease. Alberta Health and Wellness is working closely with regional health authorities, nurses, and physicians throughout the province to remind all Albertans to practice safer sex with the use of a condom and to get tested if they suspect they may have been exposed to syphilis.

"It is important that the numbers of cases start decreasing," said Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Deputy Provincial Health Officer. "The Alberta government is increasing funding for improved syphilis testing to ensure the most accurate test results. We will also be working to improve communication channels for physicians and other health providers regarding awareness of the outbreak and specific measures to be considered during treatment."

Syphilis is a curable sexually transmitted infection and is detected with a simple blood test. Although syphilis is curable with antibiotics, having the infection increases an individual's chance of contracting HIV. Individuals who have had unprotected sex and are not in an exclusive, single partner relationship, may be at risk and should visit their doctor or public health clinic.

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