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Published On: Tue, Nov 19th, 2013

Vancouver syphilis rates ‘highest level in 30 years’, predominantly in gay community

Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) and British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) announced Monday that “Syphilis rates are at epidemic proportions in the Lower Mainland”, predominately in the gay community.

Darkfield microscopy of Treponema pallidum Credits:   CDC

Darkfield microscopy of Treponema pallidum
Credits: CDC

Dr. Réka Gustafson, medical health officer for VCH said,  “In 2012, 371 cases were reported in B.C., and most of them are gay and bisexual men. This is the highest level in 30 years.”

The large increase in the sexually transmitted infection (STI) has prompted health officials to start a new educational and awareness campaign about syphilis.

According to a VCH press release, The new educational campaign includes posters and a webpage at www.checkhimout.ca/syphilis/. The campaign uses the notion of trending topics in social media to discuss rising syphilis rates in Vancouver.

The campaign is designed by gay and bisexual men. “This campaign is current, relevant and speaks to men in a way that reflects their lives,” said Jody Jollimore, program manager, Health Initiative for Men (HIM). “We know that gay and bisexual men care about their sexual health and when given access to appropriate information, make healthier choices.”

Syphilis is an STI caused by the bacterium, Treponema pallidum. The most common way to get syphilis is by having sexual contact (oral, genital or anal) with an infected person.

Early signs of syphilis, often a small ulcer or sore on the sex organ, may be overlooked as the ulcer is often painless and may go away on its own. Signs and symptoms of syphilis that develop later on often mimic symptoms due to more common disorders (symptoms such as skin rashes, mouth sores, fever, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue) and are often missed or resolve without treatment.

Syphilis causes significant complications if untreated. Timely antibiotic treatment provides an effective cure of syphilis infection.

The CDC reports syphilis remains a major health problem with increases persisting among men who have sex with men (MSM). Cases among MSM have been characterized by high rates of HIV co-infection and high-risk sexual behaviors.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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