New Brunswick has declared a provincial gonorrhea outbreak, with a steep rise in cases being blamed in part on anonymous sexual encounters arranged through dating apps.
Public health authorities say 96 gonorrhea cases were reported last year, compared to the five-year average of 54 cases.
Another 20 cases were reported in the first quarter of this year, versus an average of 12.
The province’s chief medical officer of health, Jennifer Russell, says social media tools enable anonymous sex while making it difficult to track infections.
Nationally, statistics confirm bacterial STIs are on an upward trajectory in jurisdictions across the country.
Dr. Russell encouraged people having unprotected sex to get tested.
“It is not unusual for individuals who have a sexually transmitted infection to have more than one infection at the same time. HIV, gonorrhea, syphilis and chlamydia are all examples of these infections,” she said in a statement.
Untreated chlamydia and gonorrhea can lead to pelvic inflammatory disease in females, affecting fertility.
Dr. Russell said people concerned about such infections should consult their doctor or public health even if they don’t have symptoms.
“Testing for sexually transmitted infections should be part of everyone’s routine health checkups,” said Dr. Russell. “Getting tested and treated appropriately can prevent further complications such as infertility. It also helps to stop the transmission of the disease to someone else.”
Gonorrhea is the second most commonly reported STI in the country.
About 19,845 cases were recorded in 2015, a jump of more than 65 per cent from 2010. Males had higher rates than females, with the highest number of cases among those aged 15 to 29.
Nova Scotia has noticed a steady rise in gonorrhea and chlamydia cases since 2016, primarily in the Halifax area and most diagnosed at university or college sexual health clinics, Trevor Arnason, regional medical officer of health, said last May.
In 2017, B.C. recorded 3,295 cases of gonorrhea, a dip from the roughly 3,700 a year earlier, but a major jump from 2012, when only 1,400 cases were reported.
Jason Wong, a physician epidemiologist at the BC Centre for Disease Control, has said the growth of dating apps is one suspected culprit, though no studies have been conducted to prove a link between online hookups and the spread of STIs.
Other experts also note an apparent decline in condom use.
Alberta recorded 4,763 cases of gonorrhea in 2017, up from about 3,700 the previous year.