Sask. reserves see outbreak of syphilis with 'unprecedented' 295% spike in cases

A syphilis outbreak has been declared on reserves in Saskatchewan after a spike over the last year.

Central Sask. bearing brunt of the outbreak

The federal government has declared a syphilis outbreak on Saskatchewan reserves after a spike in the number of infections between 2017 and 2019. (Kate McGillivray/CBC)

The federal government has declared a syphilis outbreak on reserves in Saskatchewan.

The rate of on-reserve infections in 2019 has spiked to 83 people per 100,000 people, from 26 people per capita in 2018, the government said. There has been a 295 per cent increase since 2017.

"We see this as an unprecedented number," said Dr. Ibrahim Khan, regional health manager for Indigenous Services Canada.

The brunt of the outbreak is being felt in central Saskatchewan. The government said the spike in cases is related to the syphilis outbreak declared in the Battlefords and Lloydminster areas earlier this year. 

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There are cases in northern and southern Sask. as well. 

Khan said the key contributing factor to the outbreak is unprotected sex with multiple partners.

The federal government said it is working with the province and local communities to address the infections.

There was an outbreak of HIV and syphilis declared last month in central Saskatchewan after 42 new cases of syphilis were recorded between January and June in the Battlefords and Lloydminster. The average amount of cases per year for that area is four. 

Eighty per cent of the syphillis cases recorded were from people between the ages of 15 and 29.

With files from Radio-Canada's Marie-Christine Bouillon