According to the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority (WRHA), the population is facing a major syphilis outbreak, puzzling medical experts. It seems that the majority of the cases were linked to homelessness and drug addiction.
Compared to last year, the number of cases could be double. For the first six months of this year, the WRHA has encountered more than 120 cases of syphilis. If the numbers reach 250 by the end of the year, it is concerning, explained WRHA medical officer of health, Dr. Pierre Plourde:
“We are trying to figure out what is fuelling that increase. There’s a certain demographic that’s evolving or that’s coming out that is facilitating the transmission of syphilis.”
The city has seen a decrease in syphilis in homosexual cases, thanks to the awareness campaigns and education, but the outbreak is now a result of sharing needles or having unprotected sex.
Plourde stated that half of the cases in 2018 were spread in the core and central areas of Winnipeg. Among those numbers, 20-30% of the cases of syphilis are addicted to crystal meth, while 20% of the cases are either homeless or live in inadequate environments.
Syphilis Symptoms, Treatment, and Prevention
Medics were shocked to see that there were even newborns diagnosed with syphilis, which was passed from mothers that had no idea they had the disease and did not get treated:
“Many people with syphilis have no awareness of the infection and have no symptoms at all for months and maybe years. Unless they are tested or screened, have no idea they are infected, but can still spread the infection despite having no symptoms.”
Ploured explained that some of the recorded cases got symptoms. The disease has three stages, each with specific symptoms.
The first stage is when the infection starts creating genital sores. The second stage is when the infection reaches the bloodstream and starts causing rashes, fever, and sickness. The last stage takes place when the infection gets to the other organs (like the brain) and affects them, creating permanent injuries and even leading to death – if not treated.
Plourde warns people that anyone can get infected if they’re “having unprotected sex without a condom, or sharing of needles, and anybody who “is engaging in those activities could spread sexually or blood born infections should be tested on a fairly regular basis for all of the sexually transmitted infections.”
Testing and treatment for syphilis are free in Canada, added Plourde.
Rex Austinwas born and raised in Thunder Bay Ontario on the shores of Lake Superior. Apart from running his own podcast (Ice Fishing And Other “Cool” Things), he spends his time canoeing and backpacking in Northern Ontario.. As a journalist Rex has published stories for Global News (Thunder Bay) we well as Buzz Feed and Joystiq. As a contributor to Great Lakes Ledger, Rex most covers science and health stories. Contact Rexhere