Edmonton is seeing the worst of a province-wide outbreak of sexually transmitted infections, according to Alberta Health Services.
AHS announced Tuesday there were more than 3,400 cases of gonorrhea reported in 2015. That’s up 80 per cent from the year before.
Dr. Karen Grimsrud, Chief Medical Officer of Health, says those rates haven’t been seen since the 80’s, and it’s even worse in the Province’s capital.
“In Edmonton, we’ve seen the highest rates, and those are double of 2014.” she says.
Cases of syphilis, meanwhile, doubled to more than 350, but Grimsrud says Edmonton is again, the hardest-hit.
“But the largest increase is again seen in the Edmonton-zone, where there was approximate tripling of the 2014 rate.”
AHS attributes the outbreak to people finding anonymous sex-partners using social media.
“In terms of transmission of STIs new social media tools enable people to communicate quickly and anonymously,” says Grimsrud. “And when people don’t know their sexual partner’s identity, it makes it difficult for public health to do the contact tracing for them and their contacts as far as setting up testing and then treatment.”
If online hook up culture is what’s leading to a spike in sexually transmitted infections across Alberta, then online is where Alberta Health Services plans to fight back.
Dr Gerry Predy, Senior medical officer of health at Alberta Health Services, says that he’ll be using social media more intensely to drive the message of safe sex and regular STI screening.
“We’re going to build on the success of the sexgerms.com website which is one of the key strategies we have. Our previous AHS campaigns that resulted in improved rates of STI testing and in turn, knowledge and awareness, steered people to this website.”
Predy believes more can be done.
“I think the other thing we can do, if we can identify the websites that people are going to to hook up, then we can target the e-mails for accessing the websites for the ads we want to get out, so that’s part of the plan going forward.”