Syphilis continues to be on the rise in Alberta says Alberta Health Services (AHS).
Alberta declared a syphilis outbreak in 2019 with 2,265 cases of syphilis reported that year. Over 2,500 cases of infectious syphilis were diagnosed in 2020.
“We are seeing a continuing increase in syphilis in the past several years that is deeply concerning,” AHS stated. “The rate of syphilis has increased by more than ten times since 2014, including increases of nearly 200 per cent in 2018 and 47 per cent in 2019.”
Syphilis rates are increasing across Canada and internationally. Alberta has not seen such high levels of syphilis since 1948.
AHS says syphilis can be transmitted to babies when mothers are infected and not treated during pregnancy. Congenital syphilis is a severe and life-threatening illness.
“Syphilis can be transmitted to babies when mothers are infected during pregnancy; this has resulted in over 70 infants being born with congenital syphilis since 2014,” AHS stated. “Congenital syphilis is a severe and life threatening illness with up to 40 per cent of babies of infected mothers being stillborn.”
Cases of syphilis have been observed across gender, sexual orientation, and age groups in this outbreak. Therefore, anyone engaging in unprotected sex outside a mutually monogamous relationship is at risk of syphilis infection and needs to use protection and get tested.
Syphilis can be treated but requires a special antibiotic provided by your healthcare provider.
Who Should Get Tested
STI testing is private and free to anyone in Alberta, and walk-in clinics are available throughout the province.
- Anyone experiencing STI-related symptoms.
- Anyone with a sexual partner who has an STI
- Anyone in a new, anonymous, or multiple sexual partners, should be screened every three to six months.
- All pregnant persons should be tested in the first trimester and again at the time of delivery.
How to Get Tested
Call Health Link at 811, see your family physician / nurse practitioner, visit a walk-in medical clinic, or contact a STI or sexual health clinic.
AHS encourages all healthcare providers in Alberta to discuss STI/HIV screening with all sexually active persons during routine office visits.
Alberta Health Services, in partnership with Alberta Health and community partners, have been working together to support initiatives to address the ongoing transmission.