Congenital Syphilis, Although 100% Preventable, Is a Health Crisis

The U.S. is currently facing a public health crisis — one that is on the rise at an alarming rate, has devastating consequences, and is 100% preventable. And that’s congenital syphilis (CS).

Mothers with syphilis can transmit it to their babies during pregnancy or at birth. Approximately 40% of babies born to patients with untreated syphilis are stillborn or die from the infection as a newborn.

In 2019, 128 babies died due to CS. Babies with CS who do survive need to be treated right away, or they can develop serious lifelong health problems, including deformed bones, severe low blood count, enlarged liver and spleen, meningitis, brain and nerve problems (such as blindness and deafness), jaundice, meningitis, and skin rashes.

In 2020, more than 2,000 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in the United Statesaccording to the CDC. That’s the highest number of cases reported in a single year since 1994. This is a rapid turnaround as, just two decades earlier, the CDC reported that the rate of primary and secondary syphilis was the lowest since reporting began in 1941.

A story I read published almost a year ago about how preventable CS is, still haunts me. It also keeps me motivated to solve this public health crisis, one that can be easily tackled with timely treatment, enabled by health information exchange (HIE) sharing and real-time alerts between hospitals and public health systems.

Read the article by Mimi Hall, Vice President of Public Health Innovation, Manifest MedEx, published in Capitol Weekly.