A syphilis outbreak has been declared by Chief Public Health Officer Kami Kandola for the NWT. This is a continuation of the health advisory that was issued on April 23rd due to the rising rates of gonorrhea and syphilis in the NWT.
The territory has seen a dramatic increase in syphilis rates in 2019 according to Kandola with 28 reported cases since the new year. The majority of these cases (70%) have been in Yellowknife.
In a release from the Department of Health and Social Services, they mention that one of the cases included a newborn that was diagnosed with congenital syphilis, the first case of its kind in the territory since 2009. Congenital syphilis occurs when a mother passes the syphilis infection on to her baby during pregnancy.
In response to the increased rates of syphilis the Kandola has directed a proactive public health response focusing initially in Yellowknife that includes:
- Rapid access to information and confidential advice through a dedicated STI phone that allows for texting;
- Rapid access to STI testing in Yellowknife;
- Increasing access to syphilis blood testing by training public health and primary care nurses to perform phlebotomy;
- Enhanced STI testing for pregnant women that is timed with other routine tests;
- Expanded walk-in clinic hours to improve access;
- Cross-training of more frontline staff to assist with patient assessments and follow-up; and
- Targeted social marketing and ads, including information in local bars and youth centres, as well as general ads for community residents.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection which causes long term, serious disease if not treated. 60% of those in the NWT who have been diagnosed are male.
For people in the Yellowknife region who want to get tested, call 867-767-9120 to arrange ‘expedited confidential’ STI testing.