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Sexually transmitted infection rates rising in Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph

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Doctors in Guelph and Wellington County are seeing more sexually transmitted infections post-pandemic.

Dr. Nicola Mercer, the medical officer of health for Wellington-Dufferin-Guelph, said it’s not surprising that rates went down during the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Now we’re heading back up to pre-pandemic, or in some cases, rates that are slightly above the pre-pandemic rates,” she told CTV News on Thursday. “Chlamydia, gonorrhea or syphilis – the big three that we have heard about – have shown consistent increases.”

Common symptoms of an STI are:

  • Sores, bumps, blisters near your genitals, anus or mouth
  • An unusual rash
  • Itching near or around your genitals, a bad smell or an unusual discharge
  • Pain in the lower abdomen
  • Pain or bleeding during or after sex
  • For women, bleeding between periods

Mercer said doctors have one big concern when it comes to syphilis.

“There’s still a large population in Ontario that doesn’t have access to primary care. If [a person] is pregnant and has a disease like syphilis, then these diseases can be transmitted to a newborn in utero. That is obviously really concerning,” she explained. “We’re trying to monitor that very closely to ensure that everyone who is diagnosed with syphilis, including young women [and] women who become pregnant, are followed up with and treated because this is a treatable disease. We don’t want to go back to what we used to see many, many decades ago where we would see babies born with congenital syphilis.”

Mercer also has advice for anyone having unprotected sex with one or more partners.

“You are at risk of a sexually transmitted infection,” she explained. “Chlamydia, we often diagnose in women more than men because women are more likely to be tested for this disease.”

Chlamydia isn’t life-threatening, but the disease can affect fertility if it’s not addressed.

“So many sexually transmitted infections, they’re treatable and they’re preventable,” said Mercer. “We just encourage people to think about that as part of their overall health plan.”

Getting tested

Anyone without a primary health care provider is encouraged to contact their local public health unit.

“We have sexual health clinics,” said Mercer. “If you’re worried about anonymity, you can still come to us. We would be happy to hear from you, and we’d be happy to diagnose and treat you.”

The health unit not only provides testing, treatment, education and referrals, but all their services are free and no health card is required.

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