September 27, 2022
Prevent congenital syphilis with syphilis detection and treatment
MOBILE, Ala. — Alabama reported 36 cases of congenital syphilis in 2021, the highest number of cases since 2006. Congenital syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection passed from mother to child during pregnancy.
Since 2019, Alabama has had increasing cases, with 15 in 2019, 23 in 2020, and alarmingly, the 36 cases last year. According to the latest reportable disease report from the Mobile County Health Department (MCHD), there have been two cases of congenital syphilis recorded in Mobile County during 2022. This follows three cases in 2019, three cases in 2020, and two cases in 2021.
“Let’s stop the rise,” said Cherrite Peterson, the Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) Program Manager at MCHD. “As syphilis rates of childbearing females increase, congenital syphilis rates also increase.”
Dr. Kevin P. Michaels, Health Officer of Mobile County, states infants born with syphilis can have lifelong complications, including skeletal and facial deformities, deafness, and blindness. Up to 40 percent are stillborn or die soon after birth. Not all babies have symptoms at birth. Babies who do not get treatment for congenital syphilis and develop symptoms later can die from the infection, be developmentally delayed, or have seizures.
Congenital syphilis is a preventable condition. As syphilis rates of childbearing females increase, congenital syphilis rates also increase. Of reported cases in Alabama, 79 percent of the mothers who delivered infants with congenital syphilis received prenatal care, but prevention opportunities were missed. The most missed opportunities to prevent congenital syphilis among prenatal care recipients in Alabama were the lack of syphilis diagnosis in the early third trimester.
MCHD’s Southwest Public Health Center (5580 Inn Road in Tillman’s Corner) now offers confidential, walk-in testing for STDs, including chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, trichomoniasis, and human immuno-deficiency virus (HIV). Services are available on weekdays from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 251-410-4393.
MCHD may also be able to provide treatment for persons who test positive and have symptoms of chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, and trichomoniasis.
Persons seeking treatment for HIV should consult with their healthcare provider or Family Health by calling 251-690-8889.
STD/HIV home specimen collection and laboratory testing kits are now available by mail to all Alabama residents and to select individuals on PrEP therapy. Persons may request one test every three months. Learn more at https://www.alabamapublichealth.gov/std/home-testing.html.