History at a glance


  • Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant woman with syphilis passes the infection to her baby during pregnancy.

  • It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, or death after birth.

  • Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics and doctors recommend regular check-ups during pregnancy.

(WBRE/WYOU) – The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) recently urged expectant mothers to be screened for syphilis in an effort to reverse the trend of babies being born with the disease.

Denise Johnson, acting secretary of health and Pennsylvania’s physician general, said she is strongly encouraging pregnant women to get prenatal care and get screened in an effort to prevent babies from being born with syphilis.

Congenital syphilis occurs when a pregnant woman with syphilis passes the infection to the baby during pregnancy, according to the DOH. It can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, or death after birth.

“Congenital syphilis is a very painful disease that is dangerous to the overall health of babies. It is also preventable,” Johnson said. “We need to educate pregnant women about the importance of syphilis screening throughout pregnancy to prevent babies from being born with the disease and reduce the risk of stillbirth.”

According to the DOH, so far in 2022, there have been 12 confirmed syphilis births outside of Philadelphia and two deaths in Pennsylvania, the highest number since 1990.

He also said there have been 39 confirmed cases of congenital syphilis since 2018 (not including Philadelphia), compared to 6 confirmed cases in the past five years, an alarming trend.

Over the past eight years, the number of syphilis deaths across the United States has steadily increased, from 334 in 2012 to 2,184 in 2020According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Over the past 10 years, the number of early syphilis cases among women of reproductive age has risen sharply from 29 in 2010 to 211 in 2021, according to the Pennsylvania DOH.

He said the department is focusing on educating pregnant women and other women of childbearing age, and also reminding health professionals of the importance of screening pregnant patients for syphilis.

“Pregnant patients need to understand that syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. Anyone diagnosed with syphilis during pregnancy should seek treatment immediately,” Johnson said. We hope so.”

Nationally, syphilis cases among women aged 15 to 44 years It has risen from 1,294 in 2012 to 6,924 in 2020, according to the CDC.

See: Press conference on increase in syphilis cases during pregnancyy

DOH recommends that all health care providers screen all pregnant patients for syphilis at the first prenatal visit, in the third trimester, and at delivery.

More information about Congenital syphilis during pregnancy, diagnosis and treatment can be found online at the DOH website..

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