The US health authority, the CDC, is alarmed by the significant increase in cases of syphilis in newborns in the United States. Last year, more than 3,700 babies were born with the sexually transmitted disease nationwide, which is more than ten times the number from a decade ago and a 32% increase from 2021. The CDC emphasizes that 90% of these cases could have been prevented through testing and treating the mothers during pregnancy.
Syphilis can affect infants when their mothers are infected and remain untreated for the disease. In pregnant women, syphilis can lead to miscarriages, and their children may suffer from long-term consequences such as blindness, deafness, or bone deformities. Detecting the disease early in pregnancy can reduce the risk of transmission to the fetus with a single penicillin injection. However, later in pregnancy, multiple injections may be necessary.
CDC representative Debra Houry stated that the number of syphilis cases in the United States has reached a “heartbreaking high level.” There is a true epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases in the country, with the number of syphilis cases increasing in all age groups. Additionally, the shortage of medications makes combating the disease more challenging.
As a result, the CDC is calling for extraordinary measures. Medical professionals are encouraged to seize every opportunity to screen pregnant women for syphilis, including during emergency treatments or in programs for drug users. To prevent further spread, the CDC recommends that women of childbearing age and their partners get tested for the sexually transmitted disease.
Furthermore, the agency urges healthcare providers to start treatment immediately after a positive test without waiting for confirmation. Quick tests should be more readily accessible and not limited to doctor’s offices or clinics.