Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 14, 2013 - 6:22 am

Number of syphilis cases rises in Nunavut: chief medical officer

GN issues St. Valentine's Day message on sexual health

NUNATSIAQ NEWS
This is an up-close view of the germ linked to syphilis infections. It makes itself known first by way of sores that can appear on the genitals and other parts of the body. (FILE PHOTO)
This is an up-close view of the germ linked to syphilis infections. It makes itself known first by way of sores that can appear on the genitals and other parts of the body. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavut continues to grapple with an outbreak of the sexually transmitted infection syphilis, the Government of Nunavut’s health department said Feb. 13.

More than 30 cases have been recorded since last year, the GN said.

The Department of Health and Social Services says it’s concerned, because the number of syphilis cases has risen and the STI is now spreading from Iqaluit to other regions.

“Safer sex is the best prevention,” says Dr. Maureen Baikie, Nunavut’s chief medical officer of health. “I urge anyone who thinks they may be infected with syphilis to visit their health care provider as soon as possible. Syphilis is easily treated, but it’s important to seek treatment early.”

Reducing the number of one’s sexual partners and using a condom during sex can greatly reduce the risk of transmission of syphilis, the GN noted.

Avoiding risky behaviours like excessive drinking and drug use, which can lead to unprotected sex, will also prevent the spread of STIs, the GN said in a news release sent out during Sexual Health and Reproductive Awareness Week.

The symptoms of syphilis, also known as “the great imitator,” can be similar to those of other illnesses.

The most common location for a sore to develop in women is on the cervix, the penis in heterosexual men, and anally and rectally in men who have sex with men.

Women may not even know they have syphilis if the sore isn’t visible.

If you become infected with syphilis, about four to 10 weeks after you’re infected, you may notice swollen glands, fever, muscle aches and a rash on the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet.

Untreated, syphilis can cause severe damage to your heart, blood vessels, brain, and can possibly lead to death.

The most common way people spread the infection is through unprotected sex with multiple partners.

However, the infection can be treated easily with antibiotics, which can control the infection in as little as two weeks.

In pregnant women, syphilis can lead to fatal deformities in babies.

In 2011, there were only five cases of syphilis in Nunavut. Before then, syphilis was uncommon, the GN has said.

The GN first alerted the public to the increasing number of cases of syphilis in the territory this past September when 13 cases of the STI had been detected in Iqaluit.

 

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