It’s a relatively easy disease to prevent, but still it is on the rise in the United States. Congenital syphilis — that is, syphilis a mother passes to her baby during pregnancy — has serious consequences for babies. And the number of cases has skyrocketed in just a few years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that in 2018, there were 1,306 known cases of congenital syphilis, an astounding 185% increase since 2014.
Babies with the disease can suffer devastating effects: blindness, deafness, deformed bones, meningitis and enlarged liver are a few possibilities. Sadly, death rates for babies who contract congenital syphilis are high.
This is one of many reasons why it’s so important to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases, or STDs. Abstinence is one way to avoid illnesses like syphilis. A monogamous relationship in which both partners have been tested for STDs is another. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration notes that condom use reduces the risk of getting an STD, but it is not 100% effective. Syphilis and some other diseases can spread just from skin touching.
Regular testing for people who are sexually active is important. Syphilis and some other infections can be present without symptoms. Thankfully, treatment for syphilis is straightforward: A course of antibiotics should successfully handle it.
A pregnant woman with syphilis should get treated right away. This will help protect her baby.
With smart decisions and strategic self-care, Americans can reverse the damaging trend on congenital syphilis. There’s no reason not to embrace the goal. Our children are worth it.