Health officials in Ottawa, Canada, are working to combat a highly infectious strain of syphilis that has seen reported case skyrocketing 76% in the past year. All cases have been among men, and nearly 90% of them were gay or bisexual.
CBC News reports symptoms include “a painless sore and rashes which may include palms of the hands or soles of the feet.” Unfortunately condoms are only partially effective against syphillis.
Though the strain responds to antibiotics, if left untreated syphilis poses a risk of neurological damage.
Dr. Paul MacPherson, infectious disease specialist at the Ottawa Hospital, remarked on the current outbreak:
The message to folks in the community is if you are sexually active with more than one partner, consider getting tested on a routine basis. I knew there was an increase before public health reported it. Nobody around here was seeing syphilis. Then we had our first spike (around 2006) and it really took everybody off guard. If in doubt, do the test.
Lauren Dobson Hughes of Planned Parenthood Ottawa said the outbreak was a sign that health officials are “not doing something right.”