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BC has highest rates of syphilis in the last 30 years


With B.C. experiencing ongoing increases of syphilis infections we are reminding people to talk with their health care professional about testing for sexually transmitted infections (STIs), especially people with new sexual partners, or women who are pregnant.

What is syphilis?

Syphilis is an infection that can be acquired through oral, vaginal and anal sexual contact with a person who has infectious syphilis or skin-to-skin contact with a syphilis lesion (chancre) or rash. Syphilis can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to their unborn child in pregnancy or during childbirth. 

Syphilis can be cured with antibiotics. If left untreated, syphilis can lead to serious complications including damage to the brain, heart and other organs, and can be associated with a greater risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. A blood test will diagnose a syphilis infection.

Treating those infected with syphilis during pregnancy helps prevent congenital syphilis, where the infection is passed from the mother to the baby during pregnancy or delivery. If left untreated, syphilis during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, long-term neurological issues, bone deformities, deafness, or even stillbirth.

Who is getting syphilis?

There were 919 new cases of infectious syphilis in B.C. in 2018, 1/3 higher than the year before. The majority of infections occur in gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. But infections are also increasing among women.

Quick facts

  • You can get syphilis through oral, vaginal and anal sexual contact or close skin-to-skin contact with a syphilis lesion or rash.

  • Syphilis infections can have no symptoms and so a person may not know they have it.

  • Symptoms can include a hard painless sore usually on the genitals or other sites of contact such as the mouth or anus. Other symptoms can include a flat, red skin rash on the back, chest, hands or feet, fever, swelling of the glands, genital rash, hair loss and fatigue.

  • People can get syphilis multiple times in their life.

  • Use of condoms during close and/or sexual contact works well to reduce your chances of getting or transmitting syphilis. Be aware that you can still get syphilis with a condom because syphilis sores can occur in places not covered by a condom.

What you need to do

Get tested regularly for STIs, especially if you have signs or symptoms, a new sexual partner, multiple partners or if you have a sexual partner who has tested positive for syphilis.

Get tested at:

    • A sexual health clinic. Use the clinic finder to find a location near you

    • Your family doctor or a walk-in clinic.

    • GetCheckedOnline: A free, online and confidential testing service available in some communities in BC (not recommended for people experiencing symptoms).

Learn More



SOURCE: BC has highest rates of syphilis in the last 30 years ( )
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