SHREVEPORT, Louisiana – In a concerning revelation, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised an urgent alarm about the skyrocketing cases of syphilis in newborns across the United States, particularly affecting communities of color. The CDC’s latest data discloses a staggering tenfold increase in newborn syphilis cases over the past decade, with over 3,700 babies born with syphilis in 2022 alone.
The CDC emphasizes the critical need for concerted action to curb this alarming trend, pointing out the devastating consequences of syphilis during pregnancy. Tragic outcomes, including miscarriage, stillbirth, infant death, and lifelong medical issues, underscore the urgent need for timely testing and treatment during pregnancy.
Shreveport, like many communities, is not immune to this concerning national trend. The CDC’s Chief Medical Officer, Debra Houry, M.D., M.P.H., expresses deep concern, stating, “The congenital syphilis crisis in the United States has skyrocketed at a heartbreaking rate. New actions are needed to prevent more family tragedies.”
Key findings from the CDC’s data reveal that almost 9 in 10 cases of newborn syphilis in 2022 could have been prevented with timely testing and treatment during pregnancy. Shockingly, more than half of these cases were among individuals who tested positive for syphilis during pregnancy but did not receive adequate or timely treatment, while nearly 40 percent were among mothers not in prenatal care.
The CDC also highlights that geographical disparities play a significant role, with over 70 percent of the U.S. population living in counties considered to have high rates of syphilis among reproductive-age women.
Barriers to timely syphilis testing and treatment during pregnancy include individual factors such as lack of insurance and substance use disorder, along with systemic barriers like systemic racism and limited healthcare access.
Jonathan Mermin, M.D., M.P.H., director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, stresses the need for proactive measures, stating, “Our nation should be proactive and think beyond the OB/GYN’s office and bridge prevention gaps. Every encounter a healthcare provider has with a patient during pregnancy is an opportunity to prevent congenital syphilis.”
In response to the escalating cases, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has established the National Syphilis and Congenital Syphilis Syndemic Federal Taskforce, dedicated to spearheading a national response. The task force aims to address the syndemic of syphilis and congenital syphilis, reduce their rates, promote health equity, and share resources with impacted communities.
For more information and to stay updated on this critical issue, visit http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns. The CDC urgently encourages public health leaders and healthcare providers to take immediate action, offering strategies such as rapid syphilis testing and treatment, addressing syphilis before pregnancy in high-risk areas, and working with local community health workers to overcome barriers to testing and treatment during pregnancy.
As our community navigates these challenges, it is crucial for us to stay informed, support one another, and work collectively towards a future where every pregnant mother has access to the care needed to protect both herself and her child from preventable diseases.