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Texas babies born with syphilis more than doubled last year

September 25, 2018

The number of Texas babies born with syphilis more than doubled in 2017 and the state rate is now the nation’s fourth highest, according to a new report highlighting the increase nationally.

The report, issued Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, showed 176 of the nation’s 918 cases of congenital syphilis last year occurred in Texas. Only Louisiana, California and Nevada reported a higher rate of cases than Texas.

“The U.S. has been experiencing a dramatic increase recently that is unprecedented in the last 20 years,” said Virginia Bowen, a CDC epidemiologist who conducts research on sexually transmitted diseases. “It reveals gaps in our system and underscores the need for pregnant women to be tested for syphilis.”

The report found Texas and four other states — Florida, California, Louisiana and Arizona — accounted for 70 percent of the cases.

In 40 percent of cases, congenital syphilis causes miscarriage, stillbirths and death soon after delivery if the bacterial infection is passed to a newborn. In survivors, it can lead to severe life-long physical and mental health problems, such as blindness and deafness.

It is considered easily preventable if the mother is treated with penicillin 30 days before delivery.

Texas law requires pregnant women be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit and again in the third trimester.

todd.ackerman@chron.com

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