(CTN News) – The Houston Health Department has reported an increase in syphilis cases among women in the Houston area, causing an increase in babies who contract the potentially deadly infection in the uterus, according to a news release from the Houston Health Department.
During the last few years, there has been a steady increase in the number of cases reported in Houston. In 2019, there were 295 reported cases of women contracting syphilis, but this number has increased to 674 in 2022 – a 128% increase over the previous year.
The number of cases of congenital syphilis (where a pregnant woman passes the disease to her baby during pregnancy or during delivery) increased from 16 cases in 2016 to 151 cases in 2021, according to the health department’s statistics.
Taking note of this increase in cases, the Department of Health has increased its screening opportunities, targeted areas where there is a high prevalence of syphilis, and is working with community health partners to combat this outbreak.
The department plans to waive fees at health centers in order to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections, as well as working with providers on outbreak awareness, treatment, and testing in order to curb the spread of the disease.
According to the press release, the HIV/STD mobile clinic will also be brought on board as a means of extending the reach of the screenings.
A pregnant woman should be tested for syphilis three times during the course of her pregnancy, according to the health department, at the first prenatal visit, during the third trimester, and at the time of delivery.
Syphilis is an infectious disease that can cause stillbirths or infant deaths within the first few weeks of birth when left unchecked in pregnant women.
As a rule, it is possible to treat syphilis with antibiotics in the majority of cases. In the event that it is left untreated, syphilis can progress into the second stage of the infection which is characterized by the appearance of a rash on the skin.
In addition to fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue, people in the second stage of the infection can also have fever, swollen lymph glands, swollen lymph nodes, sore throat, or muscle aches.
It has been reported that syphilis, in advance cases, can damage major organs such as the brain, nerves, liver, and joints as a result of the infection, as per the health department.
Houston’s Department of Health recommends that pregnant women, people who have unprotected sex, people who have multiple sexual partners, and people who have been diagnosed with other sexually transmitted diseases be tested for STDs, according to the release.