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2016 update on syphilis in BC

2016 vs 2015

In the first half of 2016, there were 396 cases of infectious syphilis (i.e. primary, secondary, and early latent) reported.  This is about 25% higher than year-to-date last year.  However, if this trend continues, we estimate there will be 792 cases reported in 2016 – slightly more than the 761 cases reported in 2015.  This is because most of the infectious syphilis cases were reported in the latter half of 2015. We will continue to monitor for a similar rise in the latter part of 2016.

Who is most affected

Of the 396 cases of syphilis, about 95% are male and of these, about 85% are among men who have sex with men exclusively.  Another 5% of males report having male and female sex partners.  Similar proportions have been observed in recent years.  While there are relatively few cases of infectious syphilis among females, the vast majority are among women of child-bearing age (i.e. 20-39 years old), reinforcing the need for continued vigilance for prenatal syphilis screening.

Among men, the rates of infectious syphilis are similar to last year for all age groups, except the 20-24 year old group.  In the first half of 2016, there were 39 cases of infectious syphilis cases reported in this group, which is about 50% higher than this time last year.  We observed an increasing rate of infectious syphilis among men in this age group in 2015, and this finding likely reflects an ongoing trend.


Of the 396 cases of syphilis, almost 40% are known to be living with HIV.  Of these, almost 80% are undetectable (viral load

There were 15 individuals with reported complications due to syphilis: 8 had neurological involvement while 7 had ocular (eye) involvement.  There were no cases of congenital syphilis reported in 2016.  Only one case of congenital syphilis has been reported in BC since 2011.


Almost all (98%) of the 396 cases of syphilis received appropriate treatment, and over 95% received their first dose within 30 days.  Across BC, over 70% received appropriate treatment within 7 days, which includes time for laboratory testing, reporting of results, and delivery of medications.  BCCDC is continuing to work on increasing the proportion of cases who receive appropriate treatment within 7 days.