University students are being greeted with more than just frosh leaders, as they head back to campus this week. A public health warning has been issued at campuses across New Brunswick, warning students of an outbreak of the venereal disease syphilis among university-aged students.

Warnings about the spread of sexually transmitted diseases aren't anything new on campus, but the threat of this outbreak is getting special attention.

Medical officials in New Brunswick have noted that syphilis cases have been on the rise over the past few years, but it's only been termed an actual outbreak recently.

"The metrics we use to call it an outbreak is really that we see a considerable number of cases than we historically see in New Brunswick," says Dr. Alexander Doroshenko, New Brunswick's Chief Medical Officer of Health.

Officials say the outbreak could reach anyone, but it is affecting young men between the ages of 20 and 24, in particular.

"Some individuals on campus may have risk factors for sexually transmitted diseases and syphilis is not an exception," says Doroshenko. "Therefore we're looking to reach all individuals who we think will benefit from raised awareness around syphilis."

To combat the outbreak, the Department of Health has requested that universities across the province include a specially branded condom within the orientation kits for freshman students.

St. Thomas University in Fredericton shied away from including condoms in the kits for many years, but the school changed its policy last year after students complained. Now the school says it will do everything it can to support the campaign.

We've included in the Welcome Week some information, a condom, and information on STDs, and they're hopeful that with greater education and access to condoms, they'll be able to address the issue," says Jeffrey Carleton, a spokesman for the university.

The executive director of AIDS New Brunswick says he hopes the campaign will encourage people to get tested. Nick Scott believes testing should be a priority for those who may be at risk, but that prevention should be the ultimate goal.

"Somewhere along the lines we missed the mark on primary prevention, both on the community level as well as the public/provincial level," says Scott. "And I think it can't stop at this campaign."

With files from CTV Atlantic's Nick Moore