Funding Needed To Combat Rise In Congenital Syphilis Cases

Funding Needed To Combat Rise In Congenital Syphilis Cases

The U.S. Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Pre­ven­tion said over 900 babies born in the states were infect­ed with syphilis in 2017. Since 2013, the num­ber of babies with syphilis at the time of birth has dou­bled and is now at a 20-year high.

The CDC said there is an epi­dem­ic in the num­ber of STDs in the U.S., hit­ting record highs. Syphilis dou­bled in 2017.

Although syphilis is cur­able with antibi­otics, the STD tends not to have any out­ward symp­toms, and most suf­fer­ers don’t know they have it. There­in lies the prob­lem with preg­nant women. A preg­nant woman with syphilis can affect their baby, who then becomes infect­ed with the dis­ease themselves.

It can cause deformed bones, blind­ness, deaf­ness, severe ane­mia and menin­gi­tis. In worst case sce­nar­ios, it results in a still­born or a baby who dies short­ly after their birth. Those who don’t die right after birth dies prematurely.

Dr. Jonathan Mer­min with the CDC said there’s no rea­son for par­ents to endure a child’s death when the solu­tion is a sim­ple test and treat­ment to pre­vent the disease’s spread. The CDC said preg­nant women have an 80 per­cent chance of pass­ing the dis­ease to their babies.

CDC Divi­sion of STD Pre­ven­tion Direc­tor Dr. Gail Bolan said pro­tec­tion for the babies begins by pro­tect­ing the moth­er. Bolan said ear­ly test­ing and imme­di­ate treat­ment to cure the infec­tions is impor­tant, but most women are falling through the crack’s sys­tem. This has to change, she said, if the num­ber of con­gen­i­tal syphilis is to drop.

Many women – about nine per­cent – have no access to health care and health insur­ance cov­er­age. While this is risky when not preg­nant, it becomes even riski­er when they are pregnant.

Med­ic­aid is a state-fed­er­al health insur­ance plans for peo­ple with lit­tle to no income and is sup­posed to insure preg­nant women. The Afford­able Care Act also offers poli­cies for preg­nant women.

How­ev­er, a CDC team dis­cov­ered that 15 per­cent of women lacked ade­quate pre­na­tal care in 2016. 23 per­cent failed to get any kind of pre­na­tal care in their first trimester.

Based on the 2016 num­bers, the CDC research found that one in three preg­nant women with syphilis was test­ed for the STD at least once dur­ing their preg­nan­cy. They either test­ed neg­a­tive or failed to get time­ly treat­ment to pro­tect their unborn child.

The CDC has sug­gest­ed med­ical pro­fes­sion­als to con­tin­ue test­ing a preg­nant woman through­out her preg­nan­cy and at the time of birth, espe­cial­ly those at high risk for syphilis or who live in an area where the dis­ease is extra­or­di­nar­i­ly high.

The CDC said the high­est state with syphilis-relat­ed births is Louisiana (93 per 100,000 births) while Mis­sis­sip­pi had the low­est rate (2.6 cas­es per 100,000 births).

The Asso­ci­a­tion of State and Ter­ri­to­r­i­al Health Offi­cials blame fund­ing cuts to pub­lic health pro­grams for the rise in con­gen­i­tal syphilis.

Asso­ci­a­tion CEO Michael Fras­er said it’s not that big of a sur­prise to see an increase in STD cas­es because of the cuts in pub­lic health bud­gets. He said states are report­ing a large num­ber of con­gen­i­tal syphilis at a time when fund­ing for STD pre­ven­tion has decreased, and it’s unfortunate.

Fras­er said the recent STD sta­tis­tics show that pub­lic fund­ing is nec­es­sary. After all, med­ical pro­fes­sion­als and the pub­lic know what needs to be done, but they need the resources to pull it off.


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