Winnipeg health officials are working to stymie an outbreak of syphilis in the city.

Winnipeg Regional Health Authority officials said the rate of the sexually transmitted infection (STI) in the city has doubled since January, and it’s spreading from a new source.

Dr. Pierre Plourde works with the WRHA. He said the outbreak is spreading quickly through men who meet other men on social media websites and then have sex.

"Its role in spreading STDs I don’t think is anything anybody would have predicted," said Plourde.

The city typically sees two cases a month, but since January they’re seeing about four per month on average.


Treponema pallidum, shown here, is the bacterium responsible for the sexually transmitted infection syphilis. (Getty Images)

Other parts of the country have also seen syphilis outbreaks in recent months. British Columbia, Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have all reported epidemics or outbreaks this year.

In June, the B.C. Centre for Disease Control reported syphilis cases were at a 30 year high.

The problem has local public health officials turning to the Internet to try and stop the spread.

Wayne Inkster is a community outreach worker with the WRHA. He works online to answer Winnipeggers’ questions about STIs.

"I’m here to answer questions about sexual health — not to judge but encourage them to be as safe as possible," said Inkster.

WRHA public health nurses are now conducting research to figure out the best strategy to spread awareness about STIs via social media sites.