Online hook-up apps are posing challenges for health officials dealing with a syphilis outbreak in Manitoba.
The province says they saw 200 cases last year. They used to see an average of 20 per year.
Rates have really increased over the past three years and among different age groups, not just young people.
Medical Officer of Health Dr. Joss Reimer says they don’t have any data to say hook-up apps caused or help contribute to the outbreak.
But she says they do make it more difficult to track who may be infected when they only have a username.
“It’s been a big challenge for public health to do what we used to do very simply and just call someone up or show up at their house and talk to them about their risks and get them tested,” she said.
“We don’t know how to find people if all we have is a username, whereas what we used to have is an actual physical person at a physical location that we could go and talk to them.”
Reimer says syphilis can be difficult to recognize during the early stages. It starts as a painless sore, which is very contagious, but will often clear up without treatment. A second stage can cause a full-body rash, hair loss and swollen lymph nodes, which can also clear up without medication.
“What we really worry about is 10, 20 years down the line you can have heart damage. Even more than that, we worry about a pregnant women getting syphilis because it can do damage to a fetus as a fetus is growing. It can cause lifelong complications or even death,” Reimer said.
Manitoba is also experiencing a shortage of Bicillin, one of the most common drugs used to treat syphilis. Reimer says an increase in demand and a shortage in supply are to blame.
(With files from Global News)