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Alberta

Alberta seeing spike in syphilis cases

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Syphilis rates way up in Alberta

Rates of syphilis in Alberta on the rise

Infectious and congenital syphilis rates have escalated across the province over the past five years, with a sharp increase in 2018.

The rapid increase in syphilis cases has spurred Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Deena Hinshaw, to declare a provincial outbreak and encourage Albertans to get tested and protect themselves.

“We need to emphasize for all Albertans: Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs) are a risk to anyone who is sexually active, particularly people who have new sex partners and are not using protection. I encourage anyone who is sexually active to get tested regularly. Anyone in Alberta can access STI testing and treatment for free.”

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Chief Medical Officer of Health

In response to the sharp rise in 2018, a provincial outbreak coordination committee composed of Alberta Health, Alberta Health Services (AHS) and other provincial health officials has been activated. Over the next three months, the committee will develop a coordinated strategy and determine concrete actions to increase STI testing, promote public awareness and reduce the overall number of syphilis cases in Alberta.

“Sexual health is an important part of overall health. We are working with community partners to remove stigma and increase awareness about STI testing services throughout Alberta. If you are sexually active, make regular STI testing part of your health routine.”

Dr. Laura McDougall, Senior Medical Officer of Health, AHS

 

A total of 1,536 cases of infectious syphilis were reported in 2018 compared to 161 in 2014, almost a tenfold increase. The rate of infectious syphilis has not been this high in Alberta since 1948.

Congenital syphilis, which occurs when a child is born to a mother with syphilis, is a severe, disabling and life-threatening disease. While congenital syphilis cases were rare before the outbreak, there were 22 congenital syphilis cases between 2014 and 2018, one of which was stillborn.

Consistent and correct condom use is important protection against STIs such as syphilis. Like other STIs, the symptoms of syphilis may not be obvious. Health experts recommend sexually active people, regardless of gender, age or sexual orientation, get tested every three to six months if they:

  • have a sexual partner with a known STI
  • have a new sexual partner or multiple or anonymous sexual partners
  • have previous history of an STI diagnosis
  • have been sexually assaulted

Prenatal care including syphilis testing is available for all Albertans. It is critical that anyone who is pregnant seeks early prenatal care and testing for syphilis during pregnancy.

Anyone experiencing STI-related symptoms should seek testing through their local health-care provider. Call Health Link at 811, visit a STI or sexual health clinic or speak to a family doctor to find testing and treatment options.

 

Quick facts

  • 2018 case counts for infectious syphilis by AHS zone:
    • South Zone: 31 cases, an increase of 138.5 per cent compared to 2017
    • Calgary Zone: 206 cases, an increase of 7.3 per cent compared to 2017
    • Central Zone: 88 cases, an increase of 266.7 per cent compared to 2017
    • Edmonton Zone: 977 cases, an increase of 305.4 per cent compared to 2017
    • North Zone: 208 cases, an increase of 324.5 per cent compared to 2017
  • For further breakdown of STI 2018 numbers, see the 2018 STI and HIV Summary Report.
  • Alberta Health works with AHS and community organizations towards prevention, health promotion, outreach testing, education, harm reduction, and addressing stigma. Previous actions include:
    • Grants to the Alberta Community Council on HIV to support community organizations across the province to prevent and reduce STIs, reduce harm associated with the non-medical consumption of substances and support health in their own geographic locations.
    • Alberta Health has provided three one-time grants totalling a combined $2 million since 2017 to combat the rising rates of STI, including syphilis, focusing on raising awareness and education, reducing stigma and increasing testing and treatment.
    • Since 2016, Alberta Health Services and Alberta Health have been working with over 100 provincial partners to develop innovative approaches to increasing access to STI services across the province.

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Alberta’s “Fair Deal Panel” in Red Deer tonight

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From the Province of Alberta

Fair Deal Panel town hall set for Red Deer

Alberta’s Fair Deal Panel will hold its second open town hall meeting in Red Deer on Dec. 9.

The Fair Deal Panel is consulting Albertans on how best to define and secure a fair deal for the province. They’re exploring ideas that give the province a bigger voice within the federation, increase power over areas of provincial jurisdiction and advance vital economic interests.

The Red Deer town hall will be held on Monday, Dec. 9 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Westerner Park Prairie Pavilion. Seating capacity is limited so participants should register to attend.

Albertans are encouraged to attend local town hall sessions and share their vision of how Alberta can achieve a fairer deal. Additional town hall locations and dates are being confirmed.

All Albertans will have the opportunity to provide their input online and through other forms of direct feedback as the panel conducts its public consultations until Jan. 30, 2020. More information on how to participate is available at www.fairdeal.ca.

In addition to receiving input from Albertans, the Fair Deal Panel will consult with policy experts and undertake research to inform its recommendations. The panel will complete its report to the government by March 31, 2020.

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Alberta

Sheldon Kennedy joins Education Minister Adriana LaGrange at Eastview Middle School to announce Respect In School program

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Minister LaGrange, Sheldon Kennedy, trustees, student leaders and staff from Eastview Middle School

From the Province of Alberta

Supporting safe and respectful learning

School leaders and staff will now have access to more resources for the prevention of bullying, harassment and discrimination in schools.

Government is providing a grant of $300,000 per year over four years to support the Respect in School program, which educates school system employees on their responsibilities to ensure students are safe from abusive situations.

“All students deserve a positive and caring learning environment. With this grant, we are following through on our commitment to support safe schools that protect students against discrimination and bullying. I encourage all school leaders and staff to complete the Respect in School training for the benefit of our children.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education

The Respect in School online training, offered in English and French, will educate teachers and other school staff, bus drivers, parent volunteers and student leaders about how they can prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination in their schools.

“We are proud to stand alongside Alberta Education who, through their leadership, is making the safety and well-being of our kids their top priority. Respect in School will give school leaders the confidence to step up and step in when situations arise and help create safe and respectful learning environments for all students.”

Sheldon Kennedy, co-founder, Respect Group Inc.

Through its online training programs, Respect Group Inc. has certified more than 1.2 million people across Canada to recognize and prevent bullying, harassment and discrimination.

“As a district we recognized increasing concerns for mental health and wellness. As we developed our Valuing Mental Health initiative, one of the key elements for prevention and promotion was the district-wide implementation of Respect in School. Each of our staff members goes through the training to recognize and prevent bullying, abuse, harassment and discrimination. By educating our school staff on the prevention of these issues, we build a culture of respect across our school community.”

Nicole Buchanan, chair, Red Deer Public Schools

Albertans dealing with bullying or other issues that may be affecting their mental health can access supports 24 hours a day, seven days a week, including the Mental Health Helpline (toll-free at 1-877-303-2642), the Bullying Helpline (toll-free at 1-888-456-2323), Bullying Helpline Chat, and Kids Help Phone (1-800-668-6868).

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