HEALTH

Syphilis has increased 128% among women in Houston since 2019

Jul 16, 2023, 7:00 AM

a doctor speaks to a patient, -- The Salt Lake County Health Department reported Thursday that it h...

(Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)

(CNN) — The Houston Health Department has reported a syphilis outbreak, with an increase of 128% among women in the city, and a ninefold increase in congenital cases in Houston and the surrounding Harris County area since 2019.

Health officials announced the outbreak in a Thursday news release.

According to the department, new infections rose by 57% from 2019 to 2022. There were 2,905 new infections in 2022, compared to 1,845 new infections in 2019.

There were 674 cases among women in 2022, a steep increase from 295 cases in 2019, according to the release. And there were 151 cases of congenital syphilis in 2021, the latest year for which statistics are available, compared to just 16 cases in 2016.

Congenital syphilis happens when a pregnant person passes the bacterial infection to their baby in the womb. Untreated congenital syphilis can lead to stillbirth or damage to the baby’s organs or bones.

“It is crucial for pregnant women to seek prenatal care and syphilis testing to protect themselves from an infection that could result in the deaths of their babies,” said Marlene McNeese Ward, deputy assistant director in the Houston Health Department’s Bureau of HIV/STI and Viral Hepatitis Prevention, in the news release. “A pregnant woman needs to get tested for syphilis three times during her pregnancy.”

Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their initial prenatal visit, during the third trimester, and at delivery, according to the release.

The health department is waiving all clinical fees for sexually transmitted infections at its health centers, according to the release.

Additionally, the department “will expand the use of its HIV/STD mobile clinic to increase the number of community screening sites and set up in areas considered hot spots, selected from disease monitoring and case management data,” the release said.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection commonly spread through sexual contact. The disease usually starts with a painless sore on the genitals or mouth – direct contact with the sores spreads the infection.

When it’s caught early on, syphilis is easily treatable with antibiotics. But without treatment, the infection can lie dormant in the body for years or even decades before attacking the brain, nerves, eyes, and other organs. It can cause deafness, blindness, and death.

Congenital syphilis has skyrocketed across the US, particularly in the South and Southwest. Infections in newborns have risen about 700% across the country over the past decade, a CDC official previously told CNN. Experts attributed the rise to a combination of factors including a lack of public funding for sexual health programs, a shortage of qualified personnel, and uneven coverage for screening by Medicaid.

Because syphilis in its early stages may not have obvious symptoms, pregnant people and their healthcare providers might not notice it or screen for it at all.

The-CNN-Wire
™ & © 2023 Cable News Network, Inc., a Warner Bros. Discovery Company. All rights reserved.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Send it to the KSL NewsRadio team here.

Health

students walk to a bus, kindness ewalls coming to utah's k-12 schools...

Britt Johnson

Schools in Utah to get Kindness eWalls

Kindness eWalls display positive messages submitted by a school's students, teachers and parents.

12 hours ago

Exercise particularly reduced risk of death for women, according to the data....

Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Women might lower their risk for cardiovascular disease by twice the amount as men with exercise

The benefits of exercise are great for everyone – but may be even better for women, according to a new study.

19 hours ago

FILE: Senate Minority Leader Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, speaks at a Senate Revenue and Taxati...

Eric Cabrera

Bill would authorize Medicaid to cover Indigenous healing services in Utah

A bill sponsored by the Senate minority leader authorizes the state to apply for a Medicaid waiver.

1 day ago

Sour gummy worms colored in red, green, yellow, and blue...

Mariah Maynes

Can sour candy ease anxiety and panic attacks?

Experts say a TikTok trend where people suck on sour candy to ease anxiety or panic attacks, can work.  

2 days ago

Amy Rey has a mark on her skin after a biopsy was performed on a lesion to check for cancer due to ...

Jen Christensen, CNN

FDA approves new therapy for hard-to-treat metastatic melanoma

The FDA approved a new, first-of-its-kind therapy that could help patients with metastatic melanoma, a rare but deadly form of skin cancer.

4 days ago

Neuro-inclusive housing...

Devin Oldroyd

Neuro-inclusive housing: helping autistic adults find their independence

Over 50,000 people with autism enter adulthood every year. What resources when it comes to neuro-inclusive housing, does Utah offer to them?

4 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Mother and cute toddler child in a little fancy wooden cottage, reading a book, drinking tea and en...

Visit Bear Lake

How to find the best winter lodging in Bear Lake, Utah

Winter lodging in Bear Lake can be more limited than in the summer, but with some careful planning you can easily book your next winter trip.

Happy family in winter clothing at the ski resort, winter time, watching at mountains in front of t...

Visit Bear Lake

Ski more for less: Affordable ski resorts near Bear Lake, Utah

Plan your perfect ski getaway in Bear Lake this winter, with pristine slopes, affordable tickets, and breathtaking scenery.

front of the Butch Cassidy museum with a man in a cowboy hat standing in the doorway...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

Looking Back: The History of Bear Lake

The history of Bear Lake is full of fascinating stories. At over 250,000 years old, the lake has seen generations of people visit its shores.

silhouette of a family looking over a lake with a bird in the top corner flying...

Bear Lake Convention and Visitors Bureau

8 Fun Activities To Do in Bear Lake Without Getting in the Water

Bear Lake offers plenty of activities for the whole family to enjoy without having to get in the water. Catch 8 of our favorite activities.

Wellsville Mountains in the spring with a pond in the foreground...

Wasatch Property Management

Advantages of Renting Over Owning a Home

Renting allows you to enjoy luxury amenities and low maintenance without the long-term commitment and responsibilities of owning a home.

Clouds over a red rock vista in Hurricane, Utah...

Wasatch Property Management

Why Southern Utah is a Retirement Paradise

Retirement in southern Utah offers plenty of cultural and recreational opportunities. Find out all that this region has to offer.

Syphilis has increased 128% among women in Houston since 2019