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Published On: Fri, Jan 11th, 2013

Bexar County, Texas saw 18 cases of congenital syphilis in 2012

Bexar County, Texas (in red)Public domain image/David Benbennick

Bexar County, Texas (in red)
Public domain image/David Benbennick

Bexar County experienced a real spike in the very curable, sexually transmitted infection syphilis last year. This is bad enough; however, newborn babies are contracting the serious bacterial infection from their infected mothers at alarming levels, according to a Fox 29 report Thursday.

San Antonio’s Metro Health has reported some 500 adults tested positive for syphilis last year. This resulted in 18 cases of congenital syphilis in babies. Of the 18, five were stillborn.

From 2005 to through 2011, Bexar County’s rates of congenital syphilis, which is transmitted from the infected mother to the baby in the womb, were five times the national average. In 2012, the rate doubled, according to a mysanantonio.com report. 

“San Antonio has the highest rate of any city in Texas, but this past year in 2012, it shot through the roof,” said Dr. Thomas Schlenker, Director of Metro Health.

Syphilis is easy to detect and to treat, said Dr. Donald Dudley, a professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio.

Dudley goes on to say, “The number ought to be zero. In a population with as many opportunities for health care that we have, this number of cases of congenital syphilis in one year means that there’s a real breakdown in the system, and we need to fix it.”

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by the bacterium, Treponema pallidum. The most common way to get syphilis is by having sexual contact (oral, genital or anal) with an infected person. The secondary lesions are also infective and contact with them could transmit the bacteria. It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby (congenital transmission). It can also be transmitted through blood transfusion, though extremely rare because of testing of donors.

Because there is a relationship between the increases in primary and secondary syphilis and the increases in congenital syphilis, prevention of congenital syphilis depends on prevention of syphilis in women.

Untreated syphilis during pregnancy, especially early syphilis, can lead to stillbirth, neonatal death, or infant disorders such as deafness, neurologic impairment, and bone deformities. Congenital syphilis (CS) can be prevented by early detection of maternal infection and treatment at least 30 days before delivery.

Syphilis is easily treated with penicillin; however, congenital syphilis is not treatable.

Metro Health aims to cut the rate of congenital syphilis in half by 2015.

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About the Author

- Writer, Co-Founder and Executive Editor of The Global Dispatch. Robert has been covering news in the areas of health, world news and politics for a variety of online news sources. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of the website, Outbreak News Today and hosts the podcast, Outbreak News Interviews on iTunes, Stitcher and Spotify Robert is politically Independent and a born again Christian Follow @bactiman63

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