Campaign material aimed at raising awarness of rising syphillis rates.

Campaign material aimed at raising awarness of rising syphillis rates.

Syphilis at ‘epidemic’ levels in B.C.’s Lower Mainland

Infections of the sexually transmitted disease hit 30-year high, mostly affecting gay and bisexual men

Public health officials are launching a new campaign to warn gay and bisexual men of a major jump in syphilis infections in the Lower Mainland.

There were 371 cases of the sexually transmitted disease reported in B.C. in 2012 – the highest level seen in 30 years.

“Syphilis rates are at epidemic proportions in the Lower Mainland,” said Dr. Réka Gustafson, a medical health officer for Vancouver Coastal Health.

The highly contagious disease can be spread through any sexual activity, but Gustafson said most of the cases being seen are in gay or bisexual men.

If left untreated, syphilis can lead to permanent blindness, hearing loss and neurological problems, all of which can happen early or late in the course of infection. Severe cases can be fatal.

The campaign, with a website at checkhimout.ca/syphilis, urges regular testing, healthier choices and symptom awareness.

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