Volume 95, Issue 81

Thursday, March 7, 2002
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USC and admin in soph bed battle

Ed. students denied class placements

In lieu of cock fighting, nerds turn to robot wars

Budget 2002/2003 -
USC targets $900k debt

USC Budget 2002/2003

Western left in the dark

Syphilis - Napoleon had it, now you can too

Cal-Berkeley sex classes included orgies

Globe's Gray talks journalism

Syphilis - Napoleon had it, now you can too

By Jillian Van Acker
Gazette Staff

Al Capone, Oscar Wilde and Napoleon may have lived in different eras, but the disease that killed them – once thought to be on the verge of extinction – is on the rise again.

The recent increase in the sexually transmitted disease syphilis is of great concern to Canadian health officials.

The rate of syphilis infection was between 0.4 and 0.6 per 100,000 people from 1994 to 1996. A study done by Health Canada estimated an increase to 0.9 per 100,000 people in 2001.

"People have forgotten about syphilis," said Tom Wong, Health Canada's division chief of STD prevention and control. "It affects both men and women and the increase can be seen in both the university age group and older age groups."

Wong said studies indicate being infected with an STD, such as syphilis, can greatly increase the risk of becoming infected with HIV or spreading HIV to partners.

"Anybody who is sexually active or has multiple sexual partners should be concerned," Wong said. "However, while there has been an increase over the past four to five years, the numbers are still relatively small in comparison to other STDs."

The most effective treatment of syphilis is benzathine penicillin, Wong said, adding it is currently carried by only one drug company, which has just announced plans to stop carrying the drug in Canada.

"This is a concern for treatment because it is the drug of choice. Other treatments are possible, but it is sometimes difficult to complete the course of treatment while other times, the patients are unable to complete the treatment," he said.

Western nursing professor Bonnie Wright said, despite the increase, syphilis is still under control.

"There is not a large impact for [benzathine penicillin] because there are not very many cases and other treatments are readily available," Wright said.

"We have less than 10 cases per year and any increase appears large," said Myrna Fisk, spokeswoman for the communicable disease and sex health unit at the Middlesex-London Health Unit. "Other drugs can be used [for treatment] and the Ministry of Health is currently looking for other companies to carry the drug.

"Ways to help prevent syphilis are abstinence, mutually monogamous partners and the use of [latex] condoms," Wong said. "Diagnoses and early treatment are also very important."

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