Syphilis cases rising in Kingston, Ont. and beyond

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Syphilis cases rising in Kingston, Ont., and beyond
According to data from KFL&A Public Health, cases of syphilis, an STI, are on the rise locally and across Ontario – Mar 23, 2023

There’s been a dramatic spike in cases of syphilis in Kingston, according to data from the local public health unit.

KFL&A Associate Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hugh Guan says it’s cause for concern. He says that from 2012 until 2019, cases were stable and generally lower than 10 per year, but things have changed.

“In 2020, there was 19; in 2021 there was 50 cases of infections syphilis. We’re still finalizing the numbers for 2022, but it appears to be even higher.”

And it’s not just in the Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington health unit catchment area. According to data from Public Health Ontario, there has been a jump in syphilis cases provincewide on the same timeline.

Guan says there are a few different contributors, but one stands out.

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“There has been changing sexual health behaviours over the past decade, five to 10 years. there’s probably a lot more anonymous sex via apps.”

On the streets of Kingston, Laura Gillis agreed to an extent, but she didn’t put the blame entirely on dating apps.

“I wouldn’t say dating apps in particular but I do think there is a rise in, kind of, this hookup culture.”

Rachel Newburger, another Kingston resident, blamed it on COVID-19.

“I would say because of the end of the pandemic and things opening. People are probably, like going crazy a little bit on that sense.”

This sudden spike is made all the more alarming by some serious indicators, like an increase in congenital syphilis cases, where babies are born with the infection, according to Guan.

But it’s not all bad news. Guan says that syphilis, no matter how severe the case, can be treated and cured easily with modern medicine, such as penicillin. The key to bringing the numbers back down is as simple as awareness.

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“If you’re sexually active,” he says, “what we would recommend is to get routinely tested for all STDs, including syphilis, as well as to use barrier methods, such as condoms, and practise safe sex.”

Signs and symptoms of syphilis commonly include a genital sore that may be painful or itchy and generalized body rashes. If you’re concerned you may be affected, seek testing through your health-care practitioner or a local clinic.

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