NEW YORK — The number of babies born with syphilis has doubled since 2013 and is at a 20-year high, federal health officials said Tuesday.
More than 900 U.S. babies were born infected with syphilis in 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported.
It’s easy to cure a syphilis infection with antibiotics, but the sexually transmitted infection often does not cause immediate symptoms and people may not know they have it.
It can kill babies, however. The CDC says 40 percent of babiesinfected with syphilis are stillborn or die soon after they are born. Others are born prematurely.
Those who survive can develop deformed bones, severe anemia, meningitis, blindness and deafness.
“No parent should have to bear the death of a child when it would have been prevented with a simple test and safe treatment,” the CDC’s Dr. Jonathan Mermin said in a statement.
There’s an epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases across the U.S., with rates hitting record highs. Syphilis cases, in particular, nearly doubled in 2017, the CDC says.
A pregnant woman with syphilis has up to an 80 percent chance of passing it on to her baby, the CDC said.
“To protect every baby, we have to start by protecting every mother,” said Dr. Gail Bolan, director of CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.
“Early testing and prompt treatment to cure any infections are critical first steps, but too many women are falling through the cracks of the system,” Bolan said. “If we’re going to reverse the resurgence of congenital syphilis, that has to change.”
Women in the U.S. often do not have access to health care, a special risk when they are pregnant. Close to 9 percent of the population lacks any health insurance coverage, according to the latest Census Bureau figures.
Source: NBC News