A syphilis outbreak of "astronomical" proportions has been unleashed in Canada's easternmost province, according to the healthcare authority of eastern Newfoundland.
Already this year — in less than three months — 15 cases of syphilis have been reported, according to Eastern Health. That's more than half the total number of cases (26) confirmed by the region's health authority all of last year. Most of the 41 syphilis infections were identified in homosexual men between 20 and 49 years of age, with 10 of the cases also being diagnosed with HIV, according to Eastern Health.
This substantial increase is raising the concerns of medical practitioners across the province, as announced in a recent Eastern Health news release.
"Over the last ten years, the number of recorded cases of syphilis has increased from a few cases a year to the number we are seeing today," reported Dr. David Allison, a medical officer of health at Eastern Health. "By informing the public of the increased risk of contracting syphilis and enhancing our efforts to identify and treat those who may have come into contact with it, Eastern Health hopes to prevent the further spread of this infection, as well as HIV."
Allison is concerned that the epidemic could spread outside of the homosexual community, where he says the infection has reached unprecedented numbers.
"The difference between [seeing two to four cases a year ten years ago] and now is actually almost astronomical … If that continues, it's really going to reach into the sky with the numbers," Allison shared with The St. John's Telegram.
Another concern the Canadian physician shared about the outbreak was its potential to infect innocent victims — the preborn — who could inherit congenital syphilis, or cause stillbirths as well as birth defects.
More STDs on the rise
Syphilis isn't the only problem the most populated region of Newfoundland (the eastern coast) has to contend with.
Another STD increasing in Newfoundland is gonorrhea, which infected 51 people in the sparsely populated province in 2014, according to LifeSiteNews. With a combined population of 527,000 between Newfoundland and Labrador (on the mainland to the west) — which is less than the United States' least populated state of Wyoming (544,000) — this number is quite high.
And gonorrhea isn't the end of it, either.
Newfoundland AIDS Committee executive director Gerard Yetman alerts Newfoundlanders that a rise in syphilis and gonorrhea can mean only one thing: that HIV is also on the rise as well. He notes that people are much more susceptible to the transmission of HIV when they have been previously infected with other STDs, such as gonorrhea and syphilis.
This synopsis is corroborated by Allison, who says the homosexual community must use constraint and take medical precautions in order for the STD outbreak to subside in Newfoundland.
"The challenge with this is syphilis makes it easier to transmit HIV," Allison informed. "We'd like to see individuals come forward and get treated. Syphilis is easily treated. HIV is not so easily treated. But it is important to control."
Unlike many other Canadian provinces, Newfoundland, with its burgeoning homosexual community, has been dwindling in numbers, with its population declining by more than 20 percent since 1991.