HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – Syphilis is a primary sexually transmitted disease, but the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported a “dire” increase in babies being born with it.
In the United States, syphilis cases in infants surged to 10 times more than a decade ago. Last year in Pennsylvania, there were 13 confirmed cases. This year, with a month and a half still left in the calendar year, there are 22, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.
“These numbers are rising and it is quite distressing for a pediatrician,” Dr. Christopher Russo of Wellspan Health said. “Just knowing the devastating consequences that a baby born to a mother [with syphilis] can have worries us greatly.”
In order for a newborn to develop congenital syphilis, the mother must test positive for it.
“A baby who is born with congenital syphilis can have very severe consequences, liver problems, brain problems, and even some babies if not treated, effectively and appropriately, can die,” Russo said.
The disease is curable, but there can be long-term effects, according to the CDC. The agency also reported that nine out of 10 cases could have been prevented with prior testing.
“We draw their blood and send it off to the lab. Then, we get the results back and get them treated,” Planned Parenthood Nurse Practitioner Casi Scully said.
For adults, treatment often involves Penicillin. Newborns who are treated are usually in the hospital for a minimum of 10 days receiving antibiotics.