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“Many other factors likely also played a role in the preliminary data, including fewer tests potentially being taken and more Albertans isolating due to the public health measures in place,” he said in an email.
“Syphilis is still a serious concern and there is no evidence to suggest that a long-term decline is underway.”
Syphilis cases have increased across Canada over the last six years.
But Alberta declared an outbreak July 2019 after reaching syphilis rates not seen since 1948. Alberta’s rate was 14 times higher last year (2,265 cases) than in 2014 (161 cases), and up 46 per cent from 2018 (1,545 cases).
Edmonton meth use a factor
The Edmonton area continues to be the outbreak’s epicentre.
University of Alberta infectious disease expert Dr. Ameeta Singh, who also works at an Edmonton clinic for sexually transmitted infections, said there are a number of factors for Edmonton’s high rates, including meth use.
“Methamphetamine is a stimulant drug which stimulates high-risk sexual behaviour and, in so doing, high-risk sexual behaviour (is done) in exchange for drugs. But even without that, it stimulates the sex drive. Because (meth has) become quite readily available … that’s almost certainly linked to what’s happening here,” Singh said.
There are higher rates of syphilis in some populations, including in men who have sex with men, and sex workers, but anyone who is having sex outside a mutually-monogamous relationship is at risk, she said.
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