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Syphilis cases on the rise in Texas, doctors cautioning new mothers

Posted at 8:08 AM, Mar 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-08 09:34:55-05

WACO, Texas — According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), syphilis was nearly eliminated in 1967. But today, cases are increasing across the country with the highest numbers reported in the south.

This issue is not only affecting adults, but the sexually transmitted infection is also not being detected in mothers at an early phase and babies are contracting the infection. A 700% increase in congenital syphilis.

"A mother comes in for her first prenatal visit, she should be screened for syphilis no matter what. And we know that sometimes that isn't happening. And so, without treatment, syphilis is highly transmissible to the infant via the placenta," says Dr. Amy Mersiovsky at Texas A&M-Central Texas.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is typically spread through sexual contact. Congenital syphilis cases in the south have grown the fastest between 2016 and 2021, cases are up 432%.

"The chlamydia rate has kind of maintained itself and has been fairly level. But gonorrhea especially syphilis cases have increased across Texas, and it's been a mirror on what is going on across the country," says Douglas Loveday from the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, many stopped scheduling their yearly check-ups. STD programs were reduced in many health departments to fight the coronavirus, Dr. Mersiovsky shares those resources need to be added back to help reduce infections.

"Our public health department is probably one of the greatest resources out there. It is publicly funded through our tax dollars, and we need to make sure they are funded well and make sure that we use the services that they offer," says Dr. Mersiovsky.

Medical professionals hope funding will be put back into public health efforts and contracts to trace programs to bring syphilis back to the historically low number they were a decade ago.

If you would like to get tested, the Waco-McLennan Health District offers STD/STI testing. For more information, you can visit their website here.