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AHS declares provincial syphilis outbreak

Alberta Health Services says syphilis rates have escalated significantly in central Alberta. A press conference was held on Tuesday to address the sharp increase that has led to a provincial outbreak of the sexually transmitted disease.

The Central Zone AHS, which records the area surrounding Lloydminster had 88 reported syphilis cases in 2018 which is a 266.7 per cent increase from the year prior. AHS says the statistics don’t include those that have visited the Lloydminster Hospital as the cases are recorded by Saskatchewan.

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Deena Hinshaw encourages Albertans to protect themselves and get tested.

“We need to emphasize for all Albertans: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a risk to anyone who is sexually active, particularly people who have new sex partners and are not using protection. I encourage anyone who is sexually active to get tested regularly. Anyone in Alberta can access STI testing and treatment for free.”

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The province has reacted to the STI outbreak by activating a provincial outbreak coordination committee consisting of health care professionals. A strategy and action plan will be constructed by the committee over the next three months to increase STI testing, promote public awareness and reduce the number of syphilis cases in Alberta.

“Sexual health is an important part of overall health. We are working with community partners to remove stigma and increase awareness about STI testing services throughout Alberta. If you are sexually active, make regular STI testing part of your health routine.” says Senior Medical Officer of Health Dr. Laura Mcdougall

In total, 1,536 cases of syphilis were reported in 2018 compared to 161 in 2014. The last time Alberta saw rates of the infectious disease this high was in 1948.

Last month, the Saskatchewan Health Authority announced an HIV and syphilis outbreak in northwest Saskatchewan which includes the Lloydminster and North Battleford areas.

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