Syphilis rates are rising throughout the territory.
In a Feb. 3 statement, the Yukon government noted a total of 53 Yukoners were diagnosed with the sexually transmitted disease, a rate officials say is higher than any rate reported on record since 1979. It is seven times higher than the 2021 rate and 17 times higher than in 2020.
“The Yukon is seeing increasing rates of syphilis across the territory which is cause for concern because it can cause serious, long-term health harms if left untreated,” Sudit Ranade, the territory’s chief medical officer of health, said in a statement. “I encourage all sexually active Yukoners to use protection and make testing a regular part of their sexual health routine.”
He went on to note that syphilis spreads from one person to another through oral, vaginal, or anal sex, or from other activities that result in skin-to-skin contact with a syphilis sore or rash. When it spreads through contact, it causes a small painless skin sore (ulcer) to the area of contact, which people may not always notice because of its location.
“If untreated, people are likely to develop a rash and other symptoms such as fever, swollen glands or hair loss,” Ranade said. “Untreated syphilis also causes serious infections of the heart, blood vessels, or brain, especially if an infection persists for many years.”
The increased rates also mean an increased risk of congenital syphilis, an infection that can impact a pregnant person and can cause serious harm to the pregnancy.
“The good news is that treatment for syphilis is highly effective with the right antibiotic,” Ranade said. “Prompt treatment prevents ongoing transmission, protects from long-term health impacts, and is very important in pregnancy to protect the developing newborn.”
Ranade added: “Although not perfectly protective, using condoms can reduce exposure to syphilis during sexual activity. People are not immune to syphilis after an infection and repeat infections can occur after treatment.”
It was pointed out the best way to know if you have syphilis is to get tested. Yukoners should be tested if they are pregnant, have symptoms, are sexually active or are concerned they may have syphilis.
“Yukoners can contact their health care provider or community health centre to arrange testing and should call Yukon Communicable Disease Control at 867-667-8323 if they have further questions,” Renade said.
It was noted syphilis is primarily impacting the heterosexual community in the territory with the highest rates of infection in those aged 20 to 39.
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