BRANTFORD, ON – The Brant County Health Unit (BCHU) is reporting an increase in infectious syphilis cases from 2021.
In 2021, there were 24 cases of infectious syphilis, which is a notable increase compared to 2020 in which seven cases were reported. Thus far in 2022 (January to May), there have been five cases reported in Brant. While this number may seem lower compared to the year prior, it is important to remain vigilant, and protect yourself against this infection and limit its transmission.
Syphilis is a bacterial infection contracted through unprotected sex. Early symptoms can include genital sores, rash and headache. It can be diagnosed through a simple blood test and easily treated with penicillin or other antibiotics. If left untreated, syphilis can cause serious impacts to the brain, heart and other organs. In Canada the rates of syphilis have increased by 112% in the last 5 years.
Syphilis can also be passed from infected mother to infant during pregnancy or birth. Congenital syphilis may have severe consequences for the newborn. It can be prevented by diagnosing and treating women during their pregnancy. Congenital syphilis cases have been reported in neighbouring jurisdictions. To date there have been no reported cases of congenital syphilis in Brant.
Safer sex practices, including the use of condoms and oral dams for each sexual interaction, can help prevent syphilis. Condoms provide very effective protection against sexually transmitted infections, if used properly and consistently during sexual activity. Unprotected sexual contact increases risk for syphilis or other STIs.
Regular STI screening is also an important part of stopping the spread of syphilis and other STIs as some people may be asymptomatic or attribute their symptoms to another medical condition. If you test positive, it is important for sexual partners to be notified to get tested and treated to prevent further spread of this disease. BCHU offers anonymous partner notification.
Pregnant women are regularly screened for syphilis in pregnancy. If you are pregnant and are concerned about your risk, talk to your healthcare provider. They can advise you on when and how often to get tested during your pregnancy.
It is important to know the signs and symptoms of syphilis, use protection for sexual activity and get tested for syphilis and other STIs. If you have concerns about syphilis or any sexually transmitted infection, contact your primary health care provider for testing and assessment.