Syphilis, the morning-after worry for sexually active adults, is on the rise in newborns, according to a disturbing new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
If left unchecked, syphilis can be passed from mom to baby during pregnancy and can pose serious health issues for the child, including brain damage or even death. Last year alone, it reportedly caused 25 stillbirths and eight deaths during the babies' first month of life.
Researchers discovered that in 2014, there were 458 babies born with the sexually transmitted disease, an increase of 38 percent from 2012 to 2014 and the highest number since 2001. Though that's hardly an outbreak, it's a spike that troubles experts and raises concerns about the quality of prenatal care (or lack thereof) some moms are receiving.
Of the babies who were infected, 22 percent of their moms went without prenatal care, and one in 10 had no record of pregnancy care. It's a major missed opportunity: During the first trimester, doctors routinely screen expectant moms for STDs including syphilis. And though treatment is fairly simple and effective—a dose of penicillin can prevent the disease from spreading to the baby—the study found that more than 40 percent of these women didn't receive treatment for their STD. Just as troubling? Thirty percent reportedly received subpar care.
Researchers are hoping their study prompts more doctors to screen women and their partners for this easily preventable disease. "The declines in syphilis gave us confidence that we had been doing a good job," Virginia Bowe, lead researcher and CDC epidemiologist, explained to Philly.com. But, as she pointed out, "these cases are entirely preventable, so 458 cases is 458 cases too many."
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