Florida health officials are reporting an increase in congenital syphilis in two counties in South Florida, prompting them to take action to address the increase of this severe, disabling, and often life-threatening infection seen in infants, according to a Florida Department of Health news release May 30.
In the southern counties of Broward and Miami-Dade, there were 21 cases in 2012. That’s up from 17 cases in 2011.
“It is unacceptable for even one baby to be born with this terrible disease,” said State Surgeon
General and Secretary of Health, Dr. John Armstrong. “We are engaging stakeholders and
implementing a comprehensive strategy to inform the public and expand public health services
to protect the health of every newborn.”
Health authorities will take the following steps to manage the situation, particularly in Broward County, which reported 15 cases last year alone.
CDC: Sexually Transmitted Infections Increase In 2011
The DOH will more than double the number of Disease Intervention Specialists, who provide direct communication with individuals who have been diagnosed with or who have been exposed to a sexually transmitted disease in order to ensure testing and treatment.
In addition, DOH staff members are aggressively educating the public and visiting prenatal care providers and labor and delivery sites in the county to review screening and testing protocols with medical staff.
“We encourage all pregnant women to get tested for syphilis as part of routine prenatal care,
both in their first and third trimester of pregnancy,” said Dr. Paula Thaqi, director of DOH Broward. “Through collaboration with the medical community, partner organizations and local
leaders we are fully committed to reducing the occurrence of all STDs in Broward and ensuring
appropriate prenatal care and treatment to protect all babies.”
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.
If syphilis is left untreated, the bacteria will damage the heart, eyes, brain, bones, joints and central nervous system. This can happen decades after the initial infection. This can result in blindness, deafness, memory loss, heart disease and death. Neurosyphilis is one of the most severe signs of this stage.
It can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her baby (congenital transmission). In addition, the organism can be transmitted through blood transfusion, though its extremely rare because of donor testing.
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 treated easily and inexpensively with antibiotics.
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