After a February 28 public health advisory about the sexually transmitted infection, syphilis, issued by the Office of the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Nunavut where 90 syphilis cases were reported.

The syphilis outbreak has reportedly continued as Health Minister Monica Ell told the territory’s legislative assembly June 4.


The case count is now 110 in the northernmost Canadian province, where syphilis was once considered rare. The sparse population of Nunuvut is approximately 32,000 in an area the size of Western Europe.

“This preventable infection is alarmingly on the rise,” Ell said in the legislature. “Nunavut is experiencing an outbreak and continued rise in the spread of syphilis.” For more infectious disease news and information, visit and “like” the Infectious Disease News Facebook page.

Ell warns of unprotected sex and multiple partners, including the increased risk when excessive drinking or drug use is involved.

Ell said her department provides ongoing education and training to its front line health workers, while making condoms available free at charge through the territory’s health centres.

Syphilis is an STI caused by the bacterium, Treponema pallidum. The most common way to get syphilis is by having sexual contact (oral, genital or anal) with an infected person.

Early signs of syphilis, often a small ulcer or sore on the sex organ, may be overlooked as the ulcer is often painless and may go away on its own. Signs and symptoms of syphilis that develop later on often mimic symptoms due to more common disorders (symptoms such as skin rashes, mouth sores, fever, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue) and are often missed or resolve without treatment.

Syphilis causes significant complications if untreated. Timely antibiotic treatment provides an effective cure of syphilis infection.