Alberta has seen an increase in syphilis cases and health officials are partially blaming transient workers attracted to the province by the strong economy.

So far this year, the province has recorded 160 cases, compared to four or five cases a year over the past few years.

Dr. Ameeta Singh, an infectious diseases specialist with Alberta Health, says other sexually transmitted disease are also on the increase.

"We do have this booming economy. We have a significant number of transient workers and individuals entering the province that are partaking of sex trade services and I think that all of this is contributing to some of the rise that we're seeing here."

However, only one-third of the cases are linked to the sex trade. She also blames a lapse in safe sex practices because of a misperception that HIV is no longer a serious disease.

"We are seeing individuals of all age groups affected. Our youngest case being 15, in adolescence, and our oldest 81. This is affecting individuals of all ethnic groups and all socio-economic classes."

Rural Albertaalso seeing jump

Even the communities surrounding the central Alberta city of Red Deer have seen an increase in syphilis cases.

The David Thompson Health Region is reporting 14 casesso far this year, compared to just one or two cases in the past couple of years.

"It was not an unexpected increase in numbers. Throughout the rest of Alberta and Canada, and actually almost worldwide, we've seen an increase of syphilis cases in the last year or two," said Shawn Mawer, manager of public health nursing.

Singh says using condoms and avoiding multiple sex partners can help stop the spread of syphilis. The disease can be treated with antibiotics, as long as it is detected in its early stages.