By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

A “dramatic increase” in syphilis cases in the Northwest Territories has prompted the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO), Dr. Kami Kandola to declare an outbreak.


Since the beginning of the year, 28 syphilis cases have been reported in the province, the majority of these cases (70 percent) have been in Yellowknife.

One of the cases included a newborn that was diagnosed with congenital syphilis. This is the first case of congenital syphilis in NWT since 2009. Congenital syphilis occurs when a mother passes the syphilis infection on to her baby during pregnancy. It can cause very serious health issues including stillbirth, neonatal death, or severe chronic health conditions.

In response to the increased rates and health burden of syphilis the CPHO has directed a proactive public health response focusing initially in Yellowknife that includes:

  • Rapid access to information and confidential advice through a dedicated STI phone that allows for texting;
  • Rapid access to STI testing in Yellowknife;
  • Increasing access to syphilis blood testing by training public health and primary care nurses to perform phlebotomy;
  • Enhanced STI testing for pregnant women that is timed with other routine tests;
  • Expanded walk-in clinic hours to improve access;
  • Cross-training of more frontline staff to assist with patient assessments and follow-up; and
  • Targeted social marketing and ads, including information in local bars and youth centres, as well as general ads for community residents.