For Immediate Release
November 12, 2015
Sharp Increases Seen Across the Country in Congenital Syphilis
NCSD calls on Congress to maintain public funding for STD prevention programs to address shocking new data
Washington, D.C. – Today, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), “Increase in Incidence of Congenital Syphilis — United States, 2012–2014” that outlines the sharp increases in congenital syphilis between 2012 and 2014. During this period, congenital syphilis increased by 38 percent, and the rate for 2014 is the highest rate seen since 2001. Increases were seen in all races and ethnicities and in every region of the country, underscoring the extent of the current syphilis epidemic in the United States.
While syphilis is primarily a sexually transmitted disease, it may be passed on by an infected woman during pregnancy. Passing the infection during gestation or at birth may lead to serious health problems including premature birth, stillbirth, and in some cases, death shortly after birth. Untreated infants who survive will often develop problems in multiple organs, including the brain, eyes, ears, heart, skin, teeth, and bones.
“The increases we are witnessing in congenital syphilis are part of the growing crisis of syphilis in this country,” stated William Smith, Executive Director of the National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD). “This data shows that our health care system is not adequately addressing STDs, and underscores the continued need for government investments to address syphilis. NCSD calls on Congress to continue funding for STD prevention programs. These direly needed funds will ensure providers are implementing recommended syphilis screenings for pregnant women to prevent congenital syphilis, and to ensure that all ofthose who have been exposed to syphilis receive treatment to stop the spread of this devastating infection.”
As stated in the MMWR, 22 percent of the congenital cases reported in 2014 were in women who received no prenatal care. More startling, however, is that of the congenital cases delivered to women with an untreated syphilis infection who received prenatal care, 15 percent were never even tested for syphilis during their pregnancy. The CDC recommends that all pregnant women be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit. Testing in the third trimester and at birth is encouraged for those at increased risk for syphilis or who live in communities with increased prevalence of syphilis infection. CDC’s full 2015 Treatment Guidelines can be found here.
“NCSD also calls on states and localities with a high morbidity of syphilis infection to pass regulations or legislation to require both first and third trimester syphilis testing, in addition to engaging health care providers to ensure they are screening and testing women for syphilis as part of routine prenatal care,” continued Smith. “We need to fight this syphilis epidemic with every available tool, including investments in public health and contact tracing as well as a new testing method now available for broad use: the country’s first CLIA-waived rapid syphilis test. For women with limited or no prenatal care records, this test can be administered just prior to delivery to increase the chances of diagnosing and treating of syphilis before birth,” concluded Smith.
The National Coalition of STD Directors (NCSD) is a partnership of public health professionals dedicated to promoting sexual health through the prevention of STDs. NCSD provides dynamic leadership that strengthens STD Programs by advocating for effective policies, strategies,
and sufficient resources by increasing awareness of the medical and social impacts of STDs.
For more information, visit www.NCSDDC.org
Stephanie S. Arnold Pang
National Coalition of STD Directors