Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum. Syphilis is spread by direct contact with a syphilis chancre/lesion, which occurs mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus or in the rectum. Lesions can also occur on the lips and in the mouth. Transmission occurs during vaginal, anal or oral sex. In addition, an infected mother can pass syphilis to her baby during pregnancy or delivery.
Lesions are often not recognized as they are painless, thus most transmission is caused by people who are unaware of their infection. If syphilis is not treated early, it can progress to cause complications of the nervous system, cardiovascular system or tissue destruction of any organ. For more information, see the health unit's fact sheet on syphilis.
By Age Group
The following graph shows the number of infectious and other syphilis cases in Simcoe Muskoka between 2000 and 2015. There have been between 3 and 19 cases of syphilis in Simcoe Muskoka every year since 2000, between one and 10 of which are infectious. In 2015, 18 cases of syphilis were reported in Simcoe Muskoka, seven of which were infectious.
The following graph shows the incidence rate of infectious syphilis cases in Simcoe Muskoka and Ontario between 2000 and 2015. The incidence rate in Simcoe Muskoka is lower than the Ontario rate. In 2015, Simcoe Muskoka’s infectious syphilis incidence rate was 1.28 cases per 100,000 population.
The Ontario incidence rate increased significantly starting in 2002 due to an outbreak among men who have sex with men, primarily in Toronto and Ottawa. In 2005, the rate decreased but a second increase was observed in 2009 among the same sub-population. In 2015, the infectious syphilis incidence rate for Ontario was 7.75 cases per 100,000 population.
The following graph shows the age-specific incidence rate of infectious syphilis in Simcoe Muskoka between 2000 and 2015. There is a lot of variability in the age specific rates because they are based on small numbers of cases. The highest rates are among 25 to 39 year olds and 15 to 24 year olds.
The following graph shows the sex-specific incidence rate of syphilis in Simcoe Muskoka between 2000 and 2015. The incidence rate among males is higher than the incidence rate among females.
There are many factors that influence how many cases are reported to the health unit, as explained on the Infectious Diseases page.
Syphilis is considered to be infectious during the primary, secondary and early latent stages. Late latent stages are considered to be non-infectious. The syphilis cases that are not staged are classified as “unspecified”. In the graphs below, the category of “other syphilis” includes non-infectious and unspecified syphilis cases.