Newborn Syphilis Cases Soar in Pennsylvania, Prompting Urgent Calls for Testing
In a concerning trend, the Pennsylvania Department of Health has reported a significant increase in newborn syphilis cases, prompting urgent calls for pregnant women to seek testing. The rise in cases of newborn syphilis, a condition where the infection is passed from a pregnant woman to her baby, has led to serious health complications, including miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births, low birth weight, and even death shortly after birth.
According to the Department of Health, there have been 31 confirmed cases of newborn syphilis so far this year, with 39 cases confirmed in 2022 – the highest number since 1990. This increase in cases is paralleled by a substantial jump in early syphilis cases among women of childbearing age, rising from 98 cases statewide in 2010 to 587 cases in 2022.
Acting Secretary of Health Dr. Debra Bogen emphasized the preventability of newborn syphilis through appropriate prenatal care, testing, and treatment. Dr. Bogen stressed the importance of identifying and treating syphilis before or during pregnancy to prevent newborn syphilis, highlighting the availability of simple tests and treatments to cure syphilis across the lifespan.
The alarming spike in newborn syphilis cases has prompted the CDC to label it a “crisis,” with a nearly 90% increase in cases nationwide last year. The CDC Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Debra Houry, emphasized the need for timely and adequate treatment to address this concerning trend.
To combat the rise in newborn syphilis cases, the Pennsylvania Department of Health is urging health care providers to follow CDC guidance and screen all pregnant women for syphilis at the first prenatal visit, during the third trimester, and at delivery. Additionally, the department is encouraging open conversations about syphilis and newborn syphilis to reduce the stigma surrounding the disease and increase the number of healthy child births across the state.
In an effort to provide accessible testing and treatment, the Department of Health’s website offers a list of providers by county that offer free STD testing and treatment services. This initiative aims to increase awareness of available resources and support for pregnant women in Pennsylvania.
As the Pennsylvania Department of Health continues to address the concerning rise in newborn syphilis cases, the importance of early testing, treatment, and prenatal care remains critical in preventing the transmission of syphilis from mother to baby. With the implementation of these measures, the hope is to reverse the trend and ensure the health and well-being of newborns across the state.