Rise in Syphilis Rates

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YELLOWKNIFE – August 3, 2021 – Since January 1, 2021 there have been 37 reported cases of syphilis, with the majority (78%) of those cases in Yellowknife. This represents a significant rate increase, dramatically exceeding that seen in 2019, the last time when the Chief Public Health Officer (CPHO) declared a syphilis outbreak. Adults between ages 20 and 60 are  experiencing high rates of infection, with the highest rates in those residents aged 30 to 39.

Since 2019, there have been two instances where a mother passed the syphilis infection to a developing newborn during pregnancy, resulting in congenital syphilis. Congenital syphilis can cause very serious health issues including stillbirth, neonatal death, or severe chronic health conditions.

In response to the outbreak, the following actions are being taken:

  • A dedicated phone in Yellowknife that provides confidential advice (call or text 867-446-5113) to people;
  • Rapid access to syphilis and other sexually transmitted infection (STI) testing in Yellowknife;
  • Enhanced syphilis testing for pregnant women that occurs at three different stages during pregnancy.

We are also re-initiating the following actions to increase awareness and provide easier access:

  • Expanding walk-in clinic hours;
  • Cross-training more frontline staff to assist with patient assessments and follow-up; and
  • Targeted social marketing and ads, including information in local bars and youth centres, as well as general ads for residents.

Residents of NWT can lower their risk of acquiring syphilis by having healthy sexual relationships, using condoms during vaginal, anal, and oral sex, and getting tested if they are in a new sexual relationship or have any concerns.

For more information on syphilis, visit: