- The number of babies born with syphilis in the US has more than doubled since 2013, according to data released Tuesday by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The STD can pass to babies from infected mothers.
- When syphilis is transmitted to babies it can cause miscarriage, newborn death, and lifelong health problems, according to a CDC press release.
- It’s critical for women having babies to get tested early in pregnancy.
The number of babies born with syphilis is on the rise in the US, according to data released Tuesday by the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The new report shows that cases of syphilis in newborns have more than doubled in recent years, from 362 cases in 2013 to 918 cases – a 20-year record high – in 2017.
Most people know syphilis as a sexually transmitted disease, or STD. It’s caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum, and if left untreated, it can cause serious complications in adults.
But syphilis can also pass from pregnant women to their babies. This is known as congenital syphilis. If a mother has syphilis and doesn’t get tested or treated, she has an 80% chance of transmitting it to her baby, according to the CDC.
“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 the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, said in a statement about the new data.
Specifically, babies with congenital syphilis may suffer from skin rashes, an enlarged liver and spleen, deformed bones, anemia, meningitis, and brain and nerve problems like blindness and deafness, the CDC website adds.
But syphilis during pregnancy can be “easily cured” with antibiotics, the statement added. That’s why the CDC recommends all pregnant women get a syphilis test the first time they see a doctor about their pregnancy.
“No parent should have to bear the death of a child when it would have been prevented with a simple test and safe treatment,” Mermin said in the statement.
Some women may need multiple tests, however. Mothers-to-be with a high risk for syphilis or who live in areas with high rates of syphilis should be tested again in the third trimester and at delivery, the statement said. (Ask your doctor if you fit the criteria for these additional tests, the CDC recommends.)
And – as always – any sexually active person, pregnant or not, can reduce the risk of getting all STDs by using condoms.
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