The number of babies born with syphilis they got from their mothers has more than doubled since 2013, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday, with some of the worst numbers coming from Southern states.
Syphilis during pregnancy is easily cured with the right antibiotics, the CDC said. So the problem speaks to deficiencies in prenatal care for women.
“Early testing and prompt treatment to cure any infections are critical first steps,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, the director of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.
“Too many women are falling through the cracks of the system,” Bolan added. “To protect every baby, we have to start by protecting every mother.”
Louisiana had the worst rate in the country last year of babies born with syphilis, with 59 cases altogether, making for 93.4 cases per 100,000 live births.
Georgia’s rate was better than the national average, with 23 cases making for a rate of 17.7 cases per 100,000 live births. The national average was 23.3 per 100,000 live births. Georgia’s rate also didn’t follow the national spike, rising only slightly from 2013.
The CDC recommends all women get tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit. But women at high risk for syphilis or who live in high-prevalence areas should be tested again early in the third trimester and at delivery, the agency said.
The disease, called congenital syphilis, can be devastating. If they live through the pregnancy, most babies who are infected before birth appear normal, according to Medline. Symptoms may include fever, rash, failure to gain weight, bone abnormalities, or irritated or cracking skin around the mouth, anus or genitals.
The consequences of not receiving treatment may include blindness, deafness, facial deformity or nervous system problems.
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