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Leeds, Grenville and Lanark health unit concerned over rise in syphilis cases

Leeds, Grenville and Lanark District Health Unit (LGLDHU) is asking residents to consider getting tested for syphilis, as the public health unit monitors a ‘rise’ in cases.

A news release by the public health unit did not specify the number of cases of the sexually-transmitted infection (STI) in the region, but is reminding residents of the symptoms and resources available.

“Syphilis is a bacterial infection that can be transmitted through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex with an infected partner, including through mutual masturbation and sharing of sex toys,” the release says.

“It can spread by direct contact with bacteria contained in syphilitic sores or rashes. It can also be passed from an infected mother to her infant during pregnancy.”

With a timely diagnosis, it can usually be cured with antibiotics. Initial symptoms may include headaches, dizziness, swollen glands in the neck or groin, and the appearance of a firm and painless ulcer at the point of infection.

LGLDHU says there may not be noticeable symptoms.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says cases of syphilis have doubled in the country since 2018.

According to Ottawa Public Health, there were 166 cases of infectious syphilis in the city in 2023 and there have been 77 cases so far in 2024. There were no cases of congenital syphilis reported.

There were 13,953 cases of infectious syphilis and 117 cases of congenital syphilis in the country in 2022, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. Congenital syphilis occurs when an infection is transmitted to a fetus during pregnancy, which can have deadly or life-altering consequences.

LGLDHU is involved with the University of Ottawa’s GetAKit program that provides at-home testing kits for HIV and other STI’s.

Residents can access the health unit’s online booking system to access sexual health clinics or can call the health unit directly at 1-800-660-5853.

Clinics in Brockville, Smiths Falls, Ganaoque, Kemptville and Almonte may also offer services to walk-ins, though appointments are encouraged.

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