Newborn syphilis cases on rise: province

The provincial government has reported an outbreak of syphilis in infants, including a number of cases in the north.

According to the Population Health division of the Department of Health, Seniors and Active Living, more than 10 infants have been treated for congenital syphilis passed on from mother to child during pregnancy or birth. Most of the cases reported come from areas covered by the Northern Health Region and in Winnipeg, according to the provincial ministry.

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Lack of prenatal care and substance abuse, as well as inadequate diagnosis and treatment for syphilis, have been cited as possible reasons for the numbers. Symptoms of syphilis can often be confused with other diseases, hampering treatment and increasing infection rates.

Syphilis is typically spread through sexual activity by someone with active sores that can appear anywhere between a few days and years after the original infection.

In recent years, syphilis cases have spiked in Manitoba. The disease can be halted by using safe sex practices, including condoms, and proper medical testing and antibiotic use. Congenital syphilis can lead to birth defects including anemia, rashes, bone deformities, spleen, liver, brain and nerve problems, premature birth or, in some cases, stillbirth and death.

The disease can be caught and treated by prenatal testing.

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