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Public Health Advisory – Increasing Syphilis Rates

January 14, 2020

Background

Provincial rates of syphilis are continuing to rise. This increase in rates has also been identified in the Hastings Prince Edward region. In 2019, HPEPH identified 10 new local cases of syphilis, compared to a previous average of 2-3 per year. 

Who Should Get Tested?

Anyone who has engaged in unprotected sexual activity and is unsure of their partner’s status should contact their health care provider or Public Health to discuss testing. While the recent increase in cases has been identified among bi-sexual men, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), between the ages of 25-64, any individual who has unprotected sex without knowing their partner’s status could be at risk.

Signs and Symptoms

Syphilis can present with a variety of different symptoms that can imitate many other conditions. The infection also progresses in multiple stages.  Early symptoms often include:

  • chancres or non-painful ulcers in the genitals, mouth, and/or rectal area,
  • lymphadenopathy (swollen lymph nodes),
  • body rashes,
  • fever,
  • malaise,
  • sore throat,
  • headaches,
  • alopecia (hair loss),
  • uveitis and/or retinitis (eye inflammation)

Testing & Treatment

Syphilis testing involves a simple blood test. Testing can be arranged through a health care provider or Public Health. For more information, please call the HPEPH Sexual Health Program at 613-966-5500 ext. 243. 

Health care providers can access details and recommendations regarding syphilis testing, staging and treatment by referring to the Canadian STI Guidelines or HPEPH’s Syphilis Infection and Laboratory Interpretation Guide

Reporting and Partner Notification

All syphilis cases and suspected cases must be reported to Public Health by a health care provider. It is critical that sexual partners (vaginal, anal and oral) of patients with syphilis get evaluated and treated if necessary. This helps reduce the risk of reinfection and is vital to preventing further transmission. 

If an individual tests positive for syphilis, a health care provider or Public Health will follow up with the patient to collect their partners’ contact information to inform them of the need to get tested. This information is collected under the Health Protection and Promotion Act and the identity of the initial patient will never be disclosed to sexual partners.

For more information, please call the Sexual Health Program at 613-966-5500 ext. 243.  

If a Health Care Provider needs to report a case, please contact us by phone at the number above, or use our online DOPHS reporting form.

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