by Morinville News Staff
Infectious and congenital syphilis rates rose sharply across the province last year, following a five-year escalation. There were 1,536 cases of infectious syphilis reported in 2018, a nearly ten-fold increase from the 161 reported in 2014. The province says the rate of infectious syphilis has not been this high in Alberta since 1948.
The Edmonton Zone had 977 cases, which was a 305.4 per cent increase over 2017. North Zone saw 208 cases, which is an increase of 324.5 per cent compared to 2017.
Congenital syphilis, a severe, disabling and life-threatening disease, occurs when a child is born to a mother with syphilis. There were 22 congenital syphilis cases between 2014 and 2018.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, has declared a provincial outbreak and is encouraging Albertans to get tested and to 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,” Hinshaw said. “I encourage anyone who is sexually active to get tested regularly. Anyone in Alberta can access STI testing and treatment for free.”
The province has put together a provincial outbreak coordination committee made up of Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and other provincial health officials. The committee will spend the next three months developing a coordinated strategy and coming up with actions to increase STI testing, promote public awareness and reduce the overall number of syphilis cases in Alberta.
“Sexual health is an important part of overall health. We are working with community partners to remove stigma and increase awareness about STI testing services throughout Alberta,” said Dr. Laura McDougall, Senior Medical Officer of Health for AHS in a release Tuesday. “If you are sexually active, make regular STI testing part of your health routine.”
More information on getting tested can be obtained by calling Health Link at 811.