In Houston The Ministry of Health is warning women in the city and surrounding areas after reporting a 128 percent increase in syphilis cases among women since 2019.
Health officials reported that the number of congenital cases has increased six times, according to a Press release Thursday (Jul. 13). Congenital syphilis is when the disease is transmitted from a pregnant mother to her child in the womb. CNN reports.
Related: CDC: US STD Epidemic ‘Out Of Control,’ With Syphilis, HIV On The Rise And 1.6M Cases Of Chlamydia Reported Last Year Alone.
Health Department Cancels All Fees for Infectious Disease Tests Due to Spike in Syphilis Cases Among Women
If left untreated, congenital syphilis can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth.
There were 674 cases of syphilis among women in 2022, compared to only 295 cases in 2019. And there were 151 cases of congenital syphilis in 2021, compared to only 16 cases in 2016, according to the Department of Health.
In response, the health department is eliminating all costs for sexually transmitted disease testing at its clinics, according to the release. The test site can be found Here.
Marlene McNeese Ward, The Deputy Director of the HIV/STI and Viral Hepatitis Prevention Department in the Houston Department of Health, appealed to women, especially pregnant women, to get tested early and regularly.
“It is very important for pregnant women to get prenatal care and get tested for syphilis to protect themselves from the disease that can lead to the death of their babies,” Ward said in a press release. “An expectant mother should be tested for syphilis three times during pregnancy.”
Doctors recommend pregnant women to be tested during their first pregnancy visit, during the third trimester, and even during childbirth, according to a press release on Thursday.
What is Syphilis? What Are the Symptoms, Treatment, and Who’s at Risk?
Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is often spread through sexual contact. It causes painless sores, increasing the risk of HIV infection.
Secondary symptoms include “fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, hair loss, headache, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue,” the newspaper said.
The National Institute of Health found that nationally, the rates of syphilis were 6.42 and 2.20 times higher among black and Hispanic heterosexual women, compared to white heterosexual women.
The highest rates and most disparities were among women ages 18 to 24 and 25 to 29, the agency says.
The infection is “easily treated” with antibiotics if caught early, according to the Houston Health Department.
However, it goes undiagnosed due to misinterpreted symptoms. Therefore, they often go undetected by those infected, the media say.
Without treatment, syphilis can lie dormant in the body for years, sometimes even decades.
Over time, the disease can cause blindness, deafness, and even death if left untreated.
Syphilis looks like other conditions until you get a blood test – that’s why it’s called the Great Pretender.
— 🌿OG Botanist Johnson 🌿 (@Thugg_Speedman) July 17, 2023
Syphilis, Chlamydia, And Gonorrhea Are On The Rise Worldwide, Per CDC
Last year, The Shade Room reported a 26 percent increase in new syphilis cases nationwide in 2021. This made the levels the highest since 1991 and the most cases since 1948.
In 2021 alone, there were 1.6 million cases of mumps, nearly 700,000 cases of gonorrhea, more than 171,000 cases of syphilis, and 2,677 cases of syphilis in newborns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The surge in cases came even as the COVID-19 pandemic began.
Meanwhile, congenital syphilis continues to spread throughout the country. The largest population is found in the South and Southwest United States, the CDC director said CNN earlier this year.
There has been a global increase of 700 percent in infected newborns in the past decade. And the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic has not slowed the spread of sexually transmitted infections, according to the CDC.
Health experts blame the lack of qualified doctors and the lack of money to help people with sex for the spread of syphilis, CNN reports.
Information on testing centers is available by calling the HIV/STD hotline at 832-393-5010.