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ARCHIVED - Report on Sexually Transmitted Infections in Canada: 2008

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Sexually transmitted infections

International Comparison

To provide international context for the trends highlighted in this report, the current state of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in Canada is compared to other western countries with a similar population health status and a well-established public health infrastructure. Countries selected for comparison are the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom. Statistics presented below are either drawn from published health reports or provided directly by respective national health departments. Differences in case numbers and reported rates need to be interpreted with caution due to differences in case definitions, reporting sources, screening programs and screening rates, age groupings and other factors.

Chlamydia

  • Chlamydia is the most commonly reported bacterial STI in all four countries. Reported rates of chlamydia infections ranged from 201.8 per 100,000 in United Kingdom to 401.3 per 100,000 in United States (Table 7).
  • The United Kingdom only reported uncomplicated genital chlamydia infections whereas other countries reported all laboratory-confirmed clinical isolates, which included both genital and extra-genital specimens. This difference may in part explain the lower rate reported in the United Kingdom.
  • In all countries except the United Kingdom, females accounted for at least 60% of all reported cases. The ratio of reported rates between males and females ranged from 1.0:1.0 in United Kingdom to 1.0:2.8 in United States (Table 7).
  • In all countries, highest rates were reported in the younger population: 15 to 24 year olds in women and 20 to 24 year olds in men.
Table 7: Reported Cases and Rates of Chlamydia in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, 2008
Country Number of Chlamydia Cases Reported Rate of Chlamydia (per 100,000) M : F Rate Ratio
Total Male Female Total Male Female
Canada* 82,919 27,876 54,967 248.9 168.7 327.4 1.0 : 2.0
Australia* 58,513 23,614 34,784 273.8 222.2 323.8 1.0 : 1.5
United Kingdom 123,018 61,863 61,155 201.8 206.8 196.9 1.0 : 1.0
United States 1,210,523 313,779 893,004 401.3 211.1 583.8 1.0 : 2.8

Source: Surveillance and Epidemiology Section, Community Acquired Infections Division, Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control, Public Health Agency of Canada for Canadian statistics. National Notifiable Disease Surveillance, Department of Health and Ageing for Australian statistics17a. HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections Department, Health Protection Agency for United Kingdom statistics18a. Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for American statistics19a.

* Totals include cases of unknown sex

Gonorrhea

  • Reported rates of gonococcal infections were higher in the United States than in other countries (Table 8).
  • In the United States, reported rates of gonorrhea were similar in men and women, while in all other countries, reported rates were higher in men than in women; the male-to-female rate ratio ranged from 1.3:1.0 in Canada to 2.1:1.0 in the United Kingdom (Table 8).
  • Consistent across countries, the highest rates were reported in young men aged 20 to 24. Among women, highest rates were reported in a slightly younger group in most countries: 15 to 19 year olds in Australia and 16 to 19 year olds in the United Kingdom. In Canada and the United States, however, the highest rate was reported in women aged 15 to 24.
Table 8: Reported Cases and Rates of Gonorrhea in Canada, Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, 2008
Country Number of Gonorrhea Cases Reported Rate of Gonorrhea (per 100,000) M : F Rate Ratio
Total Male Female Total Male Female
Canada* 12,723 7,092 5,623 38.2 42.9 33.5 1.3 : 1.0
Australia* 7,674 4,988 2,675 35.9 46.9 24.9 1.9 : 1.0
United Kingdom 16,629 11,113 5,516 27.3 37.1 17.8 2.1 : 1.0
United States 336,742 153,103 182,577 111.6 103.0 119.4 1.0 : 1.2

Source: Surveillance and Epidemiology Section, Community Acquired Infections Division, Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control, Public Health Agency of Canada for Canadian statistics. National Notifiable Disease Surveillance, Department of Health and Ageing for Australian statistics 17bHIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections Department, Health Protection Agency for United Kingdom statistics18b. Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for American statistics19b.

* Totals include cases of unknown sex.

Syphilis

  • When compared to chlamydia and gonorrhea infection, infectious syphilis is relatively rare in all four countries. Reported rates ranged from 4.1 per 100,000 in Canada to 9.1 per 100,000 in Australia (Table 9).
  • As with chlamydia, the case definition for syphilis varied across countries. In both the United States and the United Kingdom, only primary and secondary infectious syphilis cases were reported. In Australia and Canada, early latent cases were also included in reporting. However, there are notable differences in the definition of early latent syphilis between these four countries. Early latent syphilis is defined as an asymptomatic individual with syphilis who has acquired the infection in the past two years (for UK and Australia) and one year for Canada and the US.
  • In all four countries, men accounted for about 85% of reported cases of infectious syphilis. The disparity in reported rates between men and women varied by country; the male-to-female rate ratio ranged from 5.1:1.0 in the United States to 8.3:1.0 in the United Kingdom (Table 9).
  • Among men, highest rates ranged: 25 to 39 year olds in Canada, 35 to 39 year olds in Australia, 25 to 44 year olds in the United Kingdom. In the United States, highest rates were reported among 20 to 29 year olds.
  • Among women, highest rates were reported in younger populations: 15 to 19 year olds in Australia and 20 to 24 year olds in Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.
Table 9: Reported Cases and Rates of Infectious Syphilis (Primary, Secondary, Early Latent Syphilis) in Canada and Australia and Primary and Secondary Syphilis in the United Kingdom and the United States, 2008
Country Number of Syphilis Cases Reported Rate of Syphilis (per 100,000) M : F Rate Ratio
Total Male Female Total Male Female
Canada*+ 1,394 1,200 190 4.2 7.3 1.1 6.4 : 1.0
Australia*+ 1,301 1,152 148 6.1 10.8 1.4 7.7 : 1.0
United Kingdom^ 2,524 2,248 276 4.1 7.5 0.9 8.3 : 1.0
United States^ 13,500 11,255 2,242 4.5 7.6 1.5 5.1 : 1.0

Source: Surveillance and Epidemiology Section, Community Acquired Infections Division, Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control, Public Health Agency of Canada for Canadian statistics. National Notifiable Disease Surveillance, Department of Health and Ageing for Australian statistics17c. HIV and Sexually Transmitted Infections Department, Health Protection Agency for United Kingdom statistics18c. Division of STD Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for American statistics19c.

* Totals include cases of unknown sex.

+ Includes reported cases of primary, secondary and early latent syphilis. NB: The definition for early latent syphilis varies between the four countries. Early latent syphilis is defined as an asymptomatic individual with syphilis who has acquired the infection in the past two years (for UK and Australia) and one year for Canada and the US.

^ Includes only reported cases of primary and secondary syphilis cases.

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