NWT syphilis epidemic continues to grow ‘at an alarming rate’

Every sexually active NWT resident should book a syphilis test, the territory’s chief public health officer said, as an outbreak showed no signs of abating.

Syphilis has been a concern in the territory for years. On Wednesday, Chief Public Health Officer Dr Kami Kandola said the outbreak continued to “progress at an alarming rate”.

Dr Kandola said that rate was “consistently and significantly higher than the national average”.

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The Northwest Territories previously reported a 253% increase in cases between the start of 2019 and April 2022.

Syphilis is transmitted through unprotected sex and not everyone infected has symptoms. Neurological and other conditions can occur if the disease is not treated.

“The only way to know for sure if you have syphilis is to get tested,” the territorial government said Wednesday.

Earlier this summer, the GNWT said rapid tests for syphilis were on the way. It was unclear whether these were still available — there was no mention of them in a press release Wednesday, or on the territorial government’s disease webpage. The Department of Health and Social Services has been approached for clarification.

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The territory said residents should call their local public health clinic or health center to schedule an appointment.

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