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Syphilis infections soaring among seniors across north-central B.C.

For seniors within the Northern Health Authority infectious syphilis numbers went from zero to 16.5 cases per 100,000 from 2019 to 2023.
Getting tested regularly is important when sexually active at any age. Syphilis infections are on the rise for seniors in Northern Health.

For seniors within the Northern Health Authority, infectious syphilis numbers went from zero to 16.5 cases per 100,000 from 2019 to 2023, according to BC Centre for Disease Control’s latest data.

People 60 years and older in Northern Health saw 1.5 cases per 100,000 in 2020, 1.4 cases per 100,000 in 2021 and then a spike to 15.5 cases per 100,000 in 2022. There was a further increase in the first three quarters of 2023 to 16.5 per 100,000.

The graph illustrating those numbers came with a caveat that reads ‘Data should be interpreted with caution. Due to relatively low case counts, the rate of infection can change significantly with small changes in the actual number of cases’.

“There are some key messages about sexual health in general that are important to share,” Kristen Jensen, Interim Regional Nursing Lead Sexual Reproductive Health, said.

“The biggest thing is that sexual health should be part of your overall health and wellbeing. It’s about your body and relationships. For anybody who is sexually active with a partner, the best sex is safer sex, so make sure that it’s consensual and protect yourself at any age – because sexually transmitted infections certainly don’t discriminate.”

Condoms can reduce the risk, Jensen added.

“Getting tested and treated for STIs and normalizing regular testing when sexually active is really important,” Jensen said. “Everyone should be tested because a lot of these infections are treatable. They are preventable by using condoms.”

At any age, Jensen advised, people should get tested before every new relationship.

“People need to understand as we age our bodies change so we might have different hormones, different desires, different sexual needs,” Jensen said. “I think just being aware of that and opening the conversation with your partner is important.”

For testing ask your healthcare provider for a location of a clinic or get started online at


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