Edmonton Journal (03.02.10) - Thursday, March 04, 2010
Alberta had a record 263 confirmed syphilis cases in 2009, a 7
percent increase over the previous year, and more cases could
be added to the tally as health officials' investigations
continue. Last year, six babies were born with congenital
syphilis and three died. Since 2005, eight of 22 infected
babies have died.
Alberta's syphilis cases have grown steadily through recent
years, from 218 in 2006, 250 in 2007 to 245 in 2008. However,
a new awareness and prevention campaign set to launch in March
was delayed by provincial efforts to fight H1N1 influenza,
said Dr. Andre Corriveau, Alberta's top public health officer.
An administrative transitioning of STD oversight - from
Alberta Health and Wellness to Alberta Health Services - has
not helped local leadership on the issue, said Dr. Stan
Houston, an infectious-disease physician and University of
Alberta professor. In 2008, four public health doctors,
including an STD consultant, left the province for unstated
reasons, he said.
Alberta's syphilis rate is eight cases per 100,000 population,
second only to the Northwest Territories' 161.7 cases per
100,000 rate and double the national rate of 4.2 cases per
100,000. Aboriginal women are among those most at risk,
"That is a spectacular epidemic, and controlling syphilis is
not necessarily easy, but neither is it a whole new disease,"
said Houston. "We've been controlling syphilis since the early
1990s, and in fact, controlling it very well until recently."
"It still comes back to a policy issue," he added.
"Considering the scale of the problem, we're massively under-
responding." "It's just an indictment of our response to
syphilis that we're having children die from this disease," he
The province is now testing women three times during