Nunavut health officials are sounding the alarm about a territory-wide outbreak of syphilis seen this year. According to recent data, they have reported 51 cases during the first five months of 2016. In all of 2015, health officials reported 68 cases.

Treponema pallidum spirochete/CDC

The sexually transmitted infection (STI) , which was once limited to the Baffin region, has been a more widespread issue since 2012.  To put it in perspective, Nunavut reported seven syphilis cases for the five year period of 2007-2011. However, since 2012, the territory has reported dozens of cases annually (2012-31, 2013-59 and 2014-94).

Outbreaks have been reported in both the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions.

Health officials don’t speculate as to the rise in cases; however, they do encourage the use of condoms, which are available free-of-charge at local health centers. In addition, last year they launched a syphilis awareness campaign.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (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. The secondary lesions are also infective and contact with them could transmit the bacteria. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby (congenital transmission).