FREDERICTON, February 28, 2012 ( – The New Brunswick Health Department has issued a warning that syphilis is spreading at an increasing rate among the province’s homosexuals and that strategies to prevent infection and reduce risk of transmission by infected individuals seem to be ineffective.

According to the January issue of the New Brunswick Disease Watch Bulletin, infection numbers have gone from fewer than five cases per year before 2008, to 9 in 2009, 37 in 2010 and 57 last year, with 10 cases already reported in the first two months of this year.

The New Brunswick Health Department is particularly concerned that most of the syphilis infections are occurring in the homosexual community.

“Since late 2009, 92 per cent of cases have been male. Most male cases have reported only male sex partners (MSM),” the Disease Watch Bulletin states, highlighting that the disease does not seem to involve traditional high-risk groups such as prostitutes or injection drug users.

“This outbreak does not appear to involve traditional high-risk groups such as sex trade workers, patrons of sex trade workers and injection drug users,” the bulletin states.

“We seem to unfortunately have a trend,” Dr. Denis Allard, New Brunswick’s deputy chief medical officer of health, told the Canadian Press. “We hope we can have an effect on it, but for the time being it seems to be as high or higher than last year.”

Allard pointed out that most of those infected are between 20 and 25, and although the health department has posted information on syphilis on it website and produced flyers and posters directed to the homosexual community, the spread of the disease is linked to an increase in promiscuous sexual behaviour.

“People these days tend to go on the Internet to find partners there and don’t seem to inform themselves very much, they just want to have sex, and they get infected. These are people who have multiple sex partners, especially if these sex partners are anonymous,” Allard said.

The Disease Watch Bulletin notes that success in reducing the incidence of sexually transmitted infections is affected by the ability of the Health Department to trace and contact the sexual partners of infected individuals, but this is hindered by the anonymous nature of homosexual sex encounters.

“In New Brunswick, contact tracing is often challenging because one in three syphilis cases have reported having anonymous sex partner(s) in the last year. These challenges are compounded by multiple anonymous contacts associated with the Internet and bathhouses as well as by the apparent transient nature of some cases into and out of the province,” the Health Department explained.

Dr. Allard concluded that the increase in the number of sexual partners is likely contributing to the increase in syphilis infections.

“It could be that people are a little more promiscuous in their sexual behaviour,” he said.

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