Syphilis outbreak over in N.B., but residents urged to practice safe sex
Health officials in New Brunswick say an outbreak of syphilis is over, but they are warning people to continue practicing safe sex in order to prevent the infection from spreading.
Dr. Yves Leger, the medical officer of health for the Moncton area,says about three new cases had popped up each year between 2002 and 2008, but 122 cases were reported between November 2009 to November 2012, at an average of 40 new cases a year.
“The annual number of cases peaked in 2011 with 58 cases,” says Leger. “In fact, during that same year, the incidence rate in New Brunswick was higher than the Canadian rate.”
Health officials tackled the issue on several fronts, including close monitoring and awareness campaigns.
“It’s very difficult to say exactly which one of those might have had an effect in addressing the outbreak, because all of those interventions were put into place at the same time, so it’s likely a combination of all of the above,” says Leger.
AIDS Moncton partnered with a dating website for gay men – one of the groups at higher risk for syphilis. Debby Warren, executive director of AIDS Moncton, says the results were strong.
“I was pleasantly surprised and impressed by the number of click-throughs, because that is what they measure when people respond to the message, and that it was better than what they had anticipated for the type of campaign it was,” says Warren.
It’s a different story in Nova Scotia, however, where health authorities have launched a campaign to address an increase in sexually transmitted infections, including syphilis.
“We are aware they have some concerns,” says Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Dave Wilson. “That’s why here in Nova Scotia we know we’ve seen a slight increase in HRM and Halifax for example with cases of syphilis.”
Six cases of syphilis have been reported in New Brunswick since December, which is a higher average than before the outbreak, but considerably less than the number of cases reported during the outbreak.
“We are happy to say that it’s over. However, it is very important that people continue to practice safe sex to keep themselves safe,” says Leger.
Symptoms of syphilis include swollen glands, fever, muscle aches and a rash on the palms of hands and soles of feet.
It can be fatal is left untreated.
With files from CTV Atlantic's David Bell