The Public Health Agency of Canada recently reported in a infographic in the Canada Communicable Disease Report (CCDR) that the number of infectious syphilis and congenital syphilis cases in Canada have risen sharply during the period of 2017 to 2021.
According to the numbers, there were seven confirmed cases of early congenital syphilis in 2017. However, the number rose to 96 cases in 2021, an increase of 1,271 per cent.
Early congenital syphilis is defined as a laboratory confirmation of infection by Treponema pallidum occurring within the first 2 years of birth.
Congenital syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection passed from mother to child during pregnancy. Infants born with syphilis can have lifelong complications including skeletal and facial deformities, deafness and blindness. Up to 40 percent are stillborn or die soon after birth. Not all babies have symptoms at birth. Babies who do not get treatment for congenital syphilis and develop symptoms later can die from the infection, be developmentally delayed, or have seizures.
In addition, the rate of infectious syphilis cases in adults increased by 166 percent over the same four year period to 30 cases per 100,000 people, and to a total of 11,268 by 2021.
Infectious syphilis includes the primary, secondary and early latent (less than one year after infection) stages of infection, during which syphilis is transmissible.
Other key data provided by the infographic include:
- The syphilis rate for women was 729 percent higher in 2021 compared to 2017 and 96 percent higher for males.
- Gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men (gbMSM) account for nearly a third of cases in 2021.
Syphilis is a sexually-transmitted infection (STI) that can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly. Symptoms of syphilis in adults include a painless sore that will go away without treatment followed by a non-itchy body rash. If left untreated syphilis can lead to damage through the body including neurological and cardiovascular complications.