With a rapid increase in syphilis cases over the past year, health officials are warning Canadians that a syphilis outbreak has hit Alberta. This outbreak is considered to be the worst recorded outbreak of syphilis since 1948. The province of Alberta is advising all citizens to get tested and protect themselves during this time. 

An Alberta province press release warned citizens that the Chief Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, has declared a provincial outbreak of syphilis. This outbreak comes after a sharp rise in cases reported in 2018. 

A total of 1,536 cases of syphilis were reported in 2018, a massive rise from the 161 cases reported in 2014. According to the release, a committee has been created by Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services to develop a strategy to increase STI testing and reduce the number of syphilis cases in Alberta.  

Alberta warns that it's not only infectious syphilis that is spreading throughout Alberta, but also congenital syphilis, which occurs when a child is born to a mother who is infected with syphilis. Twenty-two cases of congenital syphilis were reported from 2014 to 2018. One stillborn has been reported due to this outbreak. 

Dr. Hinshaw is encouraging all sexually active residents of the province to get tested, especially when finding a new partner. She states that "STIs are a risk to anyone who is sexually active, particularly people who have had new sex partners and are not using protection."

Anyone who is sexually active should get tested every three to six months, especially if they have a new sexual partner, have the previous history of an STI or has been sexually assaulted. 

Alberta offers free STI testing and treatment to those within the province. 

While signs of syphilis sometimes aren't obvious, symptoms include a fever, rash on the feet hands or elsewhere on the body, patchy hair loss and flat gray-white sores in the mouth or on the genitals. 

If syphilis goes untreated it can affect the brain, blood vessels, and heart and eventually lead to death. 

However, Alberta isn't the only province dealing with an increase in syphilis. According to the Government of Canada, syphilis cases have been on the rise throughout all of Canada since 2001.  

Disclaimer: Cover photo used for illustrative purposes only.