09/24/2014 10:26 EDT | Updated 11/24/2014 05:59 EST

Chief public health officer warns of spike in syphilis cases on P.E.I.

CHARLOTTETOWN - P.E.I.'s chief public health officer says there's been a spike in syphilis cases in recent weeks.

Dr. Heather Morrison says anyone who is at risk and experiencing symptoms of syphilis — including a painless ulcer, rash or fever — should seek medical care and abstain from unprotected sex.

Syphilis is primarily a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria that can lead to heart and brain complications if left untreated with antibiotics.

Other symptoms include swollen or enlarged lymph nodes, headaches, hair loss, inflammation of the eye and generally feeling unwell.