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Alberta health officials are declaring a province-wide outbreak of syphilis after rates of the sexually transmitted infection increased last year to levels not seen since 1948.

Alberta Health Services says a total of 1,536 cases of infectious syphilis were reported in 2018 compared with 161 in 2014, which is almost a tenfold increase.

Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s chief medical officer, says syphilis rates jumped 187 per cent between 2017 and 2018.

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She adds Alberta Health Services is expecting higher numbers for this year.

Hinshaw says the province has seen similar rates of congenital syphilis in which the infection is spread from a mother to her unborn child.

She says a provincial outbreak co-ordination committee is to be set up on how to increase testing for sexually transmitted diseases, promote public awareness and reduce the overall number of syphilis cases in Alberta.

Hinshaw says she can’t comment on how Alberta compares with the rest of the country, because other jurisdictions have not released recent syphilis figures.

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