August 5, 2004

Syphilis Update

The Winnipeg Regional Health Authority today urged anyone who has had unprotected anonymous sex over the past several weeks and months to see a physician and get tested for syphilis.

The call came after two new confirmed cases of infectious syphilis reported several anonymous sexual contacts. This is concerning because it is impossible for Public Health to notify these individuals of their exposure to syphilis and to advise them of their risk of infection and of their need for testing and treatment.

The two latest cases come just more than a year and a half after the first cases were reported in January 2003. Initially cases involved primarily middle-aged men and women who met at downtown bars and hotels and subsequently had unprotected sex with unfamiliar partners while intoxicated. It then extended to include sex trade workers and men who report having sex with men.

The latest cases bring the total number of confirmed cases to 58 with more than 150 reported contacts. There have been approximately two or three new cases reported each month since January 2004.

Syphilis is a curable sexually transmitted infection. People with syphilis may not have any signs of illness – which is why it is important 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(s) (or ulcer) on the penis or vagina, or a rash anywhere on the body, often including the palms of the hands or soles of the feet.

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

Individuals who want to get tested can either call their family doctor or 940-2200, the WRHA Sexually Transmitted Disease Information Line.

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