News


August 23, 2003

Syphilis Update

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority today announced a stepping up of its "Stop Syphilis" campaign – involving posters, condom books and coasters. The campaign is aimed primarily at the core group affected so far by the outbreak – middle-aged men and women who met at downtown bars and hotels and subsequently had unprotected sex with unfamiliar partners while intoxicated. Public health workers routinely provide condoms to at-risk groups. Handing out condoms with the "Stop Syphilis" message underscores the need to practice safer sex.

The WRHA also reported today that the outbreak has now extended beyond the initial core group and includes 26 confirmed cases, one in a sex trade worker and two other confirmed cases of syphilis whose only reported contacts were three sex trade workers.

The total number of known contacts is 69. However, a number of the cases reported contacts for which they were not able to provide identifying information. A number of contacts – some of whom public health staff have not yet been able to trace – live outside the city's core in the suburbs.

The range of ages has also been extended with contacts and confirmed cases ranging from the mid-teen years into the mid-seventies.

Public health staff continue to work with downtown hotels and bars to distribute the posters, condom books and coasters. The outreach team continues to educate, identify at-risk individuals and provide or facilitate testing and treatment. Much of this work is done using the Street Connections van. We would like to stress again that the hotels and bars have only been meeting places for individuals.

Syphilis is a curable sexually transmitted disease. People with syphilis may not have any symptoms - which is why it is important for individuals to be tested if they have had sexual contact with an unfamiliar partner, particularly if they did not use a condom. The most common symptoms associated with syphilis include a sore (or sores) on the penis or vagina, or a rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet. Individuals who have had/or suspect that they might have had unprotected sex with an unfamiliar partner in the last six months should call 940-2200 to arrange for a special tests or see their doctor.

Although, condoms do not always stop the spread of syphilis, individuals participating in sexual activity with unfamiliar partners should also use condoms to help reduce their chance of becoming infected.

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