Saskatoon physician warns of rising syphilis charges

Saskatchewan has seen a step increase in cases of syphilis over the past two years, according to Saskatoon region medical health officer Dr. Johnmark Opondo.

Between January 2019 and May 2021 there were more than 2,300 cases – and he estimates rates have increased four-fold over the past five years.

“In the years that I’ve worked in Saskatoon, from 2003 onwards, we had years that syphilis cases were in the single digits if not zero.”

Opondo says central Saskatchewan and the northern region have experienced high rates.

“It’s always pretty easy to blame social media. It is much easier to make sexual contact and to form new sexual networks now.”

The growing numbers have him fearful of babies born with congenital syphilis.

About 40 per cent of babies born to women with untreated syphilis are stillborn or die from the infection as a newborn, according to the Saskatchewan Health Authority.

Alberta recently reported its worst syphilis numbers in about 70 years – growing to 2,509 in 2020 from 365 in 2015.

In the first quarter of this year, 765 cases were found across Alberta

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