The number of babies born with syphilis hassurged 154 percent since 2013, according to theCenters for Disease Control and Prevention, a trend that medical professionals say shows the needto be vigilant about testing and treatingthe potentially deadly disease.
Thenumber of babies born with syphilis surged from 362 in 2013 to 918 in 2017, the CDC reported Tuesday. Cases of congenital syphilis occurred in 37 states, mostly in the South and West.
If passed to a newborn, syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or death. Among survivors, it can lead toan assortment ofphysical and mental health problems for the baby.
The disease can be cured with antibiotics,but pregnant womenwith untreated syphilis face a significant risk of passing the infection to their newborn.
David C. Harvey, executive director of the National Coalition of STD Directors, called the surge “a systemic failure.”
“We are failing pregnant women in the United States,” he said. “We are seeing almost 1,000 babies born with syphilis that can easily be prevented.”
Harvey said the United Stateshas virtually eradicated HIV transmission from mothers to newborns, in partdue to thefederal Ryan White Part D program, whichfunds community programs that provide care to pregnant women with HIV.
His organization wants a similar program to prevent the mother-to-newborn transmission ofsyphilis.
Harveysaid pregnant women should be testedfor syphilis as early as possibleand throughout their pregnancies.
According to the CDC,mothers of onein three babies bornwith syphilis in 2016 were tested during pregnancy. However, those moms either were infected after getting tested or did not get treated in time to prevent passing the infection to the baby.
Last month, preliminary figures reported by the CDC showed new cases of the most common treatable sexually transmitted diseases – chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis – spiked nearly 10 percent in 2017 to an all-time high.
These infectious diseases have continued a four-year climb; experts cite changing sexual behavior and alack of awareness.