EDMONTON -- Alberta health officials say online hookup sites and anonymous sexual partners have contributed to an increase of sexually transmitted diseases to outbreak levels.
Syphilis and gonorrhea numbers continue to be high in the province, along with other sexually transmitted infections.
Alberta's senior medical health officer says online sites such as Tinder, Pure and Grindr are have added to the problem, as well as people failing to practise safe sex.
"It's easier for people to hook up with each other. We know a lot of the sex is anonymous. When we go to ask people who their contact was, quite often they can't tell us," Dr. Gerry Predy said Tuesday.
"That makes it more difficult to follow up. There's a lot of underlying social changes that have led to this."
As a result of continued high levels of infectious syphilis and gonorrhea first reported in April 2016, Alberta Health and Alberta Health Services are trying to raise awareness about the importance of safe sex and regular testing.
That includes continued universal syphilis screening for all pregnant women and increasing tests available to pregnant women.
"We are updating our provincial prenatal screening guidelines so that all pregnant women are tested in their first trimester for chlamydia and gonorrhea as they already are for syphilis," said Dr. Deena Hinshaw, deputy child medical health officer.
"We are recommending doctors also do repeat tests in the third trimester for women who are at high risks of contracting STIs."
Six cases of congenital syphilis, meaning the infection has been passed to newborns, have been reported in the province so far this year.
Alberta Health says that as of Oct. 31, there had been 3,869 cases of gonorrhea, compared with just over 3,700 in all of 2016.
Hinshaw said the highest rate of sexual infections is in 15- to 26-year-olds, but no group is immune if sexually active and not using protection.
"There is no single, simple reason for rising infection rates and no single, simple solution," she said.
"We need to underscore the broad message for all Albertans, which is: STIs are a risk to anyone who is sexually active, particularly those who have new partners and are not using protection."