Dr. Eilish Cleary is still urging people to practise safe sex to prevent the spread of syphilis.

The syphilis outbreak in New Brunswick has ended, says the provincial chief medical officer of health.

Dr. Eilish Cleary says the number of new cases has decreased steadily during the past year, resulting in the outbreak being declared over.

"However, we are still seeing a higher number of syphilis cases than before the outbreak, and for that reason, I remind New Brunswickers about the importance of practising safer sex to prevent the further spread of this disease," Cleary said in a statement.

The outbreak of the sexually-transmitted infection was declared in 2009 when the number of cases jumped, mostly among men aged 15-24.

There were 122 cases reported to public health between November and December that year.

By comparison, the provincial average between 2002 and 2008 was three new cases annually.

Infection can be fatal

Syphilis is spread by having unprotected sex with an infected person.

Many of the cases during the outbreak started in the Moncton area and involved men having sex with other men, officials said.

The Department of Health attempted to raise awareness about syphilis and prevention through its website, posters and brochures.

Public health officials had also urged family doctors to be on the lookout for possible cases of the potentially fatal infection.

Symptoms can include swollen glands, fever, muscle aches and a rash on the palms of hands and the soles of feet.

Not everyone exhibits symptoms, but syphilis can be detected through a free and confidential blood test.

If left untreated, syphilis can spread and cause damage to a person's brain, heart, bones and many other organs. It can cause paralysis, dementia and even death.

Pregnant women can pass the infection to their unborn child.

Syphilis can be treated with penicillin.