Cases of congenital syphilis in newborn babies have more than doubled in the last four years, hitting a 20-year high, says the CDC

By Julie Mazziotta
September 26, 2018 11:49 AM
A maternity ward
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Cases of congenital syphilis in newborn babies have more than doubled in the last four years, hitting a 20-year high, the Centers for Disease Control reports.

Congenital syphilis occurs when the venereal disease is passed from the mother to her baby during pregnancy or delivery, which the CDC says indicates a need for better prenatal treatment and care for pregnant women.

In 2013, there were 362 reported cases of congenital syphilis. That number soared to 918 in 2017, which the CDC says is in line with the number of reported cases of syphilis in women of reproductive age nationwide. The cases occurred in 37 states, primarily in the west and south.

As long as it is identified during the pregnancy, syphilis can be easily treated with antibiotics. But if the syphilis is left alone, there’s an 80 percent chance that it will be passed on to the baby.

Congenital syphilis puts a baby at risk for other health problems.

“When passed to a baby, syphilis can result in miscarriage, newborn death, and severe lifelong physical and mental health problems,” Dr. Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, says in a press release. “No parent should have to bear the death of a child when it would have been prevented with a simple test and safe treatment.”

The CDC says that they are going to increase their support to the states with the highest instances of congenital syphilis, and improve treatment plans.

“To protect every baby, we have to start by protecting every mother,” Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, says. “Early testing and prompt treatment to cure any infections are critical first steps, but too many women are falling through the cracks of the system. If we’re going to reverse the resurgence of congenital syphilis that has to change.”

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