Pennsylvania: Babies born with congenital syphilis hits highest level in 32 years


by NewsDesk Laugh

the Pennsylvania Department of Health The following Monday released an increase in congenital syphilis reported in the state:

Map of Pennsylvania / National Atlas of the United States

Pennsylvania Acting Secretary of Health and Physician General Dennis Johnson strongly encourages pregnant women to seek prenatal care and syphilis testing during pregnancy to reverse the recent trend of babies being born with the disease.

Congenital syphilis is a disease that occurs when a pregnant woman with syphilis passes the infection on to her baby during pregnancy. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature births, low birth weight or death soon after birth.

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Congenital syphilis can be a painful and dangerous disease for the general health of children. It’s also preventable, said Dr. Johnson. “We need to educate pregnant women about the importance of testing for syphilis throughout their pregnancy in order to prevent babies from being born with the disease and reduce the chance of a stillbirth.”

The department focuses its educational outreach towards pregnant women and others of childbearing age, while reminding healthcare professionals of the importance of testing patients for syphilis during pregnancy.

Pregnant patients should understand that syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Johnson added if anyone tests positive for syphilis during pregnancy, they should seek treatment immediately. “We hope that by speaking out about this issue, we can reduce the stigma surrounding syphilis testing and, ultimately, increase the number of healthy births across the state.”

There have been 12 confirmed cases of congenital syphilis in Pennsylvania (excluding Philadelphia) so far in 2022, along with two stillbirths. This marks the highest level of cases since 1990, when there were 17 confirmed cases. In addition, the department has seen a worrying trend over the past five years with 39 confirmed cases of congenital syphilis (excluding Philadelphia) since 2018, compared to six confirmed cases of the disease over the past five years.

The department notes that the number of cases of congenital syphilis has increased, as the number of cases of early syphilis among women of childbearing age has increased dramatically over the past decade, from 29 cases in 2010 to 211 cases in 2021.

The department recommends that health care providers screen all pregnant women for syphilis at the first prenatal visit, during the last trimester and at birth. Health care providers who need additional information are asked to contact the department’s Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Program at 717-787-3981.

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