Cases of Congenital Syphilis in Canadian Infants on the Rise – English – VOA Indonesia

The number of babies born with congenital syphilis in Canada is increasing at a much faster rate than that recorded in the United States (US) or Europe. Experts say the increase in cases is driven by increased methamphetamine use and a lack of access to public health systems for indigenous people.

Although syphilis has made a comeback in the last five years, the rate of increase in cases of the disease in Canada is different than in other wealthy countries. Health Canada notes that syphilis cases in the country have increased 13-fold over the last five years. The incidence of babies born with syphilis will reach 26 per 100,000 live births in 2021 from two in 2017.

That number will continue to rise in 2022, according to preliminary government data obtained Reuters.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says babies with congenital syphilis are at increased risk of having low birth weight, bone malformations and sensory difficulties.

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Syphilis in pregnancy is the second leading cause of stillbirth worldwide, says WHO.

However, congenital syphilis is easily preventable if the infected person has access to penicillin during pregnancy.

Among the group of wealthy G7 countries for which data is available, only the US has a higher incidence of syphilis at birth: 74 per 100,000 live births by 2021, three times the rate in 2017, according to preliminary figures from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). .

There were 2,677 cases of congenital syphilis in the US in 2021 in a population of 332 million, according to preliminary CDC data. Canada has 96 cases for a population of 38 million, according to Health Canada.

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Public health researchers say people who experience poverty, homelessness and drug use, and those without adequate access to the health system, are more likely to catch syphilis through unprotected sex and pass it on to their babies.

One form of syphilis sores. (Photo: via Reuters)

“In high-income countries, you see it in pockets of marginalized populations,” said Teodora Elvira Wi, who works on WHO’s HIV, Hepatitis and sexually transmitted infections programme.

What sets Canada apart is its Indigenous people who experience discrimination and often have poor access to health and social services, said Sean Rourke, a scientist at the Li Ka Shing Institute of Science at St. Michael in Toronto, which focuses on preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

“It’s just the whole system, and all the things that we’ve done in a bad way are not supporting indigenous peoples,” he said.

Health Canada told Reuters it had sent epidemiologists to help provinces contain the rise in congenital syphilis. Spokesman Joshua Coke said the federal government was expanding access to testing and treatment in indigenous communities. [ah/ft]

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