Eastern Health is reminding people about safe sex practices, after the health authority confirmed the first case of congenital syphilis in its region and notes a spike in syphilis cases overall.
Rates remained high in 2018, with 33 infectious syphilis cases reported, Eastern Health said in a release Friday morning.
The cases are being seen in men and women, ages 15 to 68.
Eastern Health saw its first incident of confirmed congenital syphilis in 2018, as well.
That number of confirmed cases in 2018 is up from 2017, when Eastern Health confirmed 29 cases. That was a 50 per cent increase over the number of cases in 2016, showing a steadily increasing rise in cases.
Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant woman, who has syphilis, spreads the disease to her unborn infant. When passed to a baby, syphilis can result in miscarriage, newborn death, and severe lifelong physical and developmental concerns, the health authority advises.
In the early stages of infection, an untreated woman is 70 to 100 per cent likely to pass on the infection to her fetus. Those rates go down to about 40 per cent if she became infected, for example, six months before becoming pregnant.
“Without early and regular prenatal care, a pregnant woman may not know that she has syphilis and that her baby is at risk,” Eastern Health said in its release.
“Syphilis during pregnancy is easily cured with the right antibiotics.”
Syphilis is a bacterial sexually transmitted infection (STI) that can be contracted through unprotected anal, vaginal or oral sex, and can cause serious and permanent damage if left untreated.
Symptoms, at different stages of infection, include:
- An open sore at the point of infection.
- Flu-like illness.
- Muscle aches and pains.
- Rash on chest, back, palms of hands and bottoms of feet.
For more information, Eastern Health has these public health recommendations: