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By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

Officials with the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) are reporting an increase in syphilis cases prompting them to remind British Columbians to speak with their health care professional about testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially those with new sexual partners, or people who are pregnant.


There were 919 new cases of infectious syphilis in B.C. in 2018, a rate of 18.4 per 100,000. This represents a 33 per cent increase from 2017. In B.C., the majority of infections occur in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men.

“After seeing syphilis infections decrease for several years, rates of syphilis began to climb again earlier this decade,” said Dr. Bonnie Henry, Provincial Health Officer. “We’ve been working to address syphilis in B.C. and raise awareness about testing among men who have sex with men. We are currently working with our partners to see what more we can do to reduce the number of infections but we also need the public to be aware of the risk and to be proactive about testing and treatment.”

While syphilis continues to disproportionately affect gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men in B.C., infections are also increasing among women. There has been a nearly 40 per cent increase of infectious syphilis among women 15 to 49 years old from 2017 to 2018.

After many years of no cases of congenital syphilis in the province, B.C. identified two cases in 2019.

In response to the increase in cases among women, B.C. has implemented a temporary change to syphilis screening guidelines during pregnancy. In addition to the routine screening that already takes place during the first trimester of pregnancy and ongoing screening during pregnancy for individuals at higher risk of syphilis, it is now recommended that all pregnant individuals get tested again around the time of delivery.
Treating those infected with syphilis during pregnancy helps prevent congenital syphilis, where the infection is passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy or delivery. If left untreated, syphilis during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, long-term neurological issues, bone deformities, deafness, or even stillbirth.