The Northwestern Health Unit says the odds of catching syphilis in the region continue to grow year-over-year.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection spread through direct contact with a syphilis sore during physical intercourse. It can be easily treated with antibiotics, but if left unchecked, can cause severe damage to your body.
The NWHU says case rates have been steadily increasing in the region since 2018 – but in 2021 when things started to reopen after COVID-19 lockdowns – rates increased by 107 per cent compared to the previous year.
Now, leadership explains 2022’s rates are 20 per cent higher than 2021’s – with 139 confirmed cases. About 50 per cent can be found in the Sioux Lookout area and 42 per cent in Kenora.
“Consistent use of barrier methods for protection such as condoms and dental dams is very important to prevent the spread of syphilis,” explains Medical Officer of Health with the NWHU, Dr. Kit Young Hoon.
She adds those who have had unprotected sex with new or multiple partners should seek confidential, free syphilis testing from the NWHU or their healthcare provider, and pregnant women should speak with their healthcare provider as syphilis can spread to a fetus.
The Centre for Disease Control says without treatment, syphilis can spread to the brain and nervous system, as well as the eye. Severe symptoms can include paralysis, dementia, severe headaches and more.
To prevent syphilis, the health unit stresses the proper use of condoms when engaging in sexual activity - which are free at local NWHU offices.
Earlier this year, the NWHU also advised the area about an increase in HIV and AIDS cases. The health unit says there have been 9 confirmed cases in Kenora between 2013 and 2021.