AUSTIN (KXAN) – Austin Public Health said that congenital syphilis cases in Travis County are expected to double in 2022 and 2023 since 2021, mirroring national trends.
Congenital syphilis cases in Travis County increased by about 40% from 2018 to 2021. There were eight cases in 2018 and 11 in 2021, according to APH.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report Tuesday revealing that the number of babies born in the U.S. with syphilis in 2022 – over 3,700 – was 10 times higher than the number in 2012. Further, the report said that nearly 90% of those cases could have been prevented.
Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant woman passes syphilis on to her baby. The disease can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, miscarriage and death, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
“The congenital syphilis crisis in the United States has skyrocketed at a heartbreaking rate,” CDC Chief Medical Officer Debra Hour said in a press release. “New actions are needed to prevent more family tragedies. We’re calling on healthcare providers, public health systems, and communities to take additional steps to connect mothers and babies with the care they need.”
Texas accounted for nearly a quarter of the U.S. congenital syphilis in 2021 and ranked fifth in the nation that year for U.S. states with the highest congenital syphilis rates, per the DSHS.
APH recommends that all sexually active individuals get tested to know their sexual health status, and the CDC recommends pregnant women get STI tested on the first occasion they see a doctor for their pregnancy.
“Additionally, expecting mothers should talk with their doctor to determine if they should be tested again at the beginning of the third trimester and again when the baby is born,” a spokesperson from APH said.
Nearly 40% of the 2022 congenital syphilis cases in the country were among mothers who did not receive prenatal care, according to the CDC.
Benzathine penicillin G is the only treatment for syphilis during pregnancy, and adequate treatment can prevent congenital syphilis with a 98% success rate, according to DSHS.