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Babies Born With Syphilis Just Reached a 20-Year High, CDC Says

The number of babies born with syphilis is up more than 150% since 2013, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). What’s more, the rate of newborns with the sexually transmitted disease (STD) syphilis has reached a 20-year high. Reported cases of newborns with syphilis jumped from 362 in 2013 to 918 in 2017.

Syphilis is easily curable, including during pregnancy if detected and treated with the right antibiotics, which is why the skyrocketing rate is so alarming and upsetting. Newborn babies are at risk for numerous preventable problems if they contract the STD. “When passed to a baby, syphilis can result in miscarriage, newborn death, and severe lifelong physical and mental health problems,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, the director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention in a statement.

In addition to being tested early in pregnancy, the CDC advises follow-up testing toward the end of pregnancy to ensure a woman is not carrying the STD she could then pass to her child. Recent CDC research found that one in three women who gave birth to a baby with syphilis in 2016 did get tested during pregnancy. The women who were tested then either acquired syphilis after the test or didn’t get treated in time to cure the infection, and thus were not able to prevent adverse health outcomes for their newborns.

In August, the CDC reported that STD rates have hit an all-time high, in general, again. A record-breaking 2.7 million cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis were reported in the United States in 2017.