Sexually transmitted infections on the rise in Simcoe Muskoka, health unit says

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit office in Barrie. Nick Westoll / File / Global News

The Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit (SMDHU) is warning the public that sexually transmitted infections (STIs) are on the rise in the region.

In a press release Wednesday, the SMDHU said from 2019 to 2021 the health unit saw a “significant increase” in STIs in Simcoe Muskoka, “including a four to five time increase in the annual number of reported cases of syphilis.”

The health unit said before 2019, the region would average less than 10 cases per year. However, that number rose to 50 cases in 2021.

The SMDHU said the number of cases of gonorrhea reported grew to 265 in 2021, up from 120 reported in 2020.

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“The increasing cases of STIs is a disturbing trend that we are seeing not only locally, but across the province as well,” Dr. Colin Lee, SMDHU associate medical officer of health, said in the release. “It is important to keep in mind that access to health care during the pandemic has been limited and the number of cases may be higher than we realize.”

Lee said many STIs can go undiagnosed “as people don’t always show symptoms or people don’t recognize that the symptom is due to an STI and the only way to know is to get tested.”

Anyone who is sexually active, who has a new partner, or who has had multiple partners in the last two years should contact their health-care provider to ask about STI testing.

Those who engage in unprotected sex or who have STI symptoms should also contact a health-care provider regarding testing, the health unit said.

“Testing for STIs can include a urine test for chlamydia and gonorrhea and a blood test for syphilis, HIV, Hepatitis B and C, depending on risk factors,” the release reads.

The health unit said most STIs can be treated with free medication that can be access via a health-care provider.

More information about STIs can be found on the health unit’s website, or by calling 705-721-7520 and pressing 3 to speak to a sexual health public health nurse.


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