CDC: Congenital Syphilis Rates Exploded In Recent Years To Record High


                                                                   By Alexa Lardieri

There were 3,761 cases of congenital syphilis in 2022. This rise in cases led to 231 stillbirths and 51 infant deaths last year.

In the past decade, cases of syphilis in babies have surged ten-fold across the US, rising to more than 3,700 hundred cases in 2022.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported Tuesday there were 3,761 cases of congenital syphilis last year, a 31.7 percent increase from 2021 and 10 times as many cases than the 334 reported in 2012.

This rise in cases led to 231 stillbirths and 51 infant deaths last year.

CDC Chief Medical Officer Dr Debra Houry said: 'The congenital syphilis crisis in the United States has skyrocketed at a heartbreaking rate. New actions are needed to prevent more family tragedies.

'We’re calling on healthcare providers, public health systems, and communities to take additional steps to connect mothers and babies with the care they need.'

The CDC attributes the rise in cases to poor access to sexually transmitted infection screening and treatment, as well as cuts to public health and sexual health budgets.

The health agency said 88 percent of congenital syphilis cases last year could have been prevented with better access to clinics and prenatal care, as well as treatments.

In a vast majority of congenital syphilis cases, pregnant women were not tested for the STI and 38 percent of infected pregnant women were not receiving prenatal care.

Of cases of congenital syphilis, more than half were among people who tested positive for the STI during pregnancy but did not receive proper or timely care.

Congenital syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection that occurs when an infected mother passes the STI to her baby during pregnancy, was nearly eradicated in the US at the turn of the century, but began rising again about a decade ago.

The rise in the STI in babies is concurrent with the rise of syphilis cases of among women - increasing by 17.2 percent among 15- and 44-year-olds from 2021 to 2022.

Congenital syphilis raises an infant's risk of bone damage, anemia, jaundice, nerve damage and meningitis.

The disease kills about 40 percent of babies born with it, but treatment is possible with medication.

Dr Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said: 'The congenital syphilis epidemic is an unacceptable American crisis.

'All pregnant mothers — regardless of who they are or where they live — deserve access to care that protects them and their babies from preventable disease.

'Our nation should be proactive and think beyond the OB/GYN’s office and bridge prevention gaps. Every encounter a healthcare provider has with a patient during pregnancy is an opportunity to prevent congenital syphilis.'

The CDC said one of the biggest risks for syphilis is where a person lives, and, according to data from 2021, more than 70 percent of the US population lived in counties considered to have elevated cases of the STI.

Syphilis in women can be treated with the medication Bicillin L-A, which could prevent the mother from passing the disease onto the fetus.

However, there has been a nationwide shortage of the drug and its manufacturer, Pfizer, does not anticipate the shortage to be resolved until 2024 - partly blaming the boom in cases, which has drastically increased demand.

Last month, health advocates called on President Joe Biden to declare a public health emergency over the surge in congenital syphilis cases.

By declaring a public health emergency, it would allow the president to use the Defense Production Act to manufacture more Bicillin L-A.


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