Syphilis on the Rise

There has been a disturbing development in the health and wellness sector in the province. Earlier this week the Acting Chief Public Health Officer of Manitoba, Dr. Michael Isaac, hosted a press conference where he stated that there has been a sudden surge in syphilis cases. Usually somewhat rare, syphilis can have dire long-term consequences if left untreated. According to Dr. Isaac there were 368 cases of syphilis across the province in 2018, compared to only 118 cases in the year 2013. The number of diagnosed cases is expected to rise throughout the year.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum. Generally, it is transmitted through direct contact with a syphilis sore, also known as a chancre. It can also be transmitted through the sharing of needles with an infected individual. Like many other STD's, syphilis has serious long-term implications if left untreated.  Serious damage to the heart, brain, and various internal organs are known to occur. In some cases, syphilis can even lead to a fatal state. However, if the infection is caught in time, proper treatment can be sought with antibiotics. The best defense against syphilis is avoiding sexual contact with infected individuals.

Syphilis is also known to affect unborn babies, should pregnant women contact the disease. Should a woman be infected with syphilis while pregnant, she is at a much higher risk of miscarrying the baby or having a premature birth. Syphilis can also lead to the newborn baby developing what is known as congenital syphilis, should the infant survive. Traditionally, most cases of syphilis have been with men, not women. However, more and more cases popping up across Manitoba have been younger women. In 2014, there were 16 cases of women having syphilis in the province. That number jumped all the way up to 168 in 2018. It appears that younger generations are contacting the disease much more frequently than in prior years. Due to this fact the Province of Manitoba is developing educational campaigns to assist in the prevention of the disease.