Northern Saskatchewan has higher rates of syphilis
The number of syphilis cases in Saskatchewan is going in the wrong direction.
Last week, Indigenous Services Canada announced that the number of cases in the province had increased by approximately 900% compared to 2019. The Medical Officer of Health for the Northern Inter Tribal Health Authority (NITHA), Dr Nnamdi Ndubuka, has explained that a province-wide outbreak was declared in Saskatchewan in 2019. the authority has been dealing with outbreaks for some time.
“In June we reported 149 cases, so putting that into perspective, the syphilis rates in 2022 are 3.7 times higher than what we reported in 2019,” he said.
Overall, Ndubuka classified the syphilis situation in NITHA communities as serious with an increase in cases. Regarding transmission of the virus, Ndubuka said there are a number of risk factors that lead people to contract the virus. Risky activities include illicit drug use, but Ndubuka said many of the cases they know of are the result of sexual contact.
“Sex with a known case is about 31%,” he said.
A range of organizations have worked to help tackle the problem of rising syphilis cases in Saskatchewan since the outbreak was declared in 2019. The Prince Albert Grand Council (PAGC) recently acquired a specialist van to provide testing and other services to some of their communities. . Nubuka said NITHA was working to raise awareness and educate people in their communities about the virus, he added, there was also a focus on protecting pregnant women.
“We have also put in place measures around prenatal screening for all pregnant women to ensure that we identify cases in time and institute appropriate treatment,” he said.
Regarding testing, Ndubuka said NITHA is working not only to get more people tested for syphilis, but also for other sexually transmitted infections, including HIV and hepatitis C, to prevent name just two.
“If we test for one STD, we test for all,” he said.
Getting people tested and treated is crucial not only for the health of the person infected with the virus, but is also important in terms of reducing the spread of syphilis because when caught, medication can be prescribed which can prevent the person from passing the virus to other people.
“It tends to avoid any additional cases from that person,” Ndubuka said.