News

US officials warn of dramatic rise in infant syphilis

By AFP

November 8, 2023 02:58 PM


Representational image

 

Cases of syphilis among newborns have grown tenfold in the United States over the past 10 years, health officials warned Tuesday, part of a broader rise in sexually transmitted diseases in America.

Over 3,700 infants were born with congenital syphilis in 2022, more than 10 times the number in 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a statement.

However, in nine out of 10 cases the disease could have been prevented with timely testing and treatment during pregnancy, CDC said.

"The congenital syphilis crisis in the United States has skyrocketed at a heartbreaking rate," said CDC's Chief Medical Officer Debra Houry.

Infants can develop syphilis in utero, if their mother is infected and not treated. In a pregnant woman, syphilis can lead to miscarriages, death of the newborn, or long-term complications for the baby, such as loss of vision or hearing and bone malformations.

"The STI epidemic in our country is continuing to escalate," added Houry, in reference to sexually transmitted infections. "Syphilis is increasing in all age groups in the US, including women of reproductive age and their sexual partners."

Racial minorities bear the brunt of the epidemic with lower access to testing and treatment.

Black, Native American or Hispanic babies were up to eight times more likely to be born with syphilis than babies born to white mothers in 2021, the agency said, calling for strategies tailored to the most vulnerable groups.

Barriers experienced by them "include lack of ongoing health coverage, living in health care or maternal care deserts, transportation limitations, challenges posed by substance use disorder, housing instability, poverty and racism," said Laura Bachmann, CDC's top official on the prevention of socially transmitted diseases.

The CDC called on health care providers to boost screening of pregnant women, including those treated in emergency rooms or in programs related to drug use.


AFP


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