Search for news

Protect Yourself from Syphilis Outbreak 2023

Aug 24, 2023 By Marie White

In Houston and Harris County, Texas, the Health Department noticed a worrying increase in syphilis cases aka syphilis outbreak. In particular, there has been a 128% jump in syphilis cases among women. What's even more concerning is that cases of babies being born with syphilis, known as congenital syphilis, have risen nine times in the area.

The Houston syphilis epidemic is symptomatic of a greater problem. Cases of syphilis and other STDs have been on the rise in recent years across the United States To give you an idea, from 2020 to 2021, syphilis cases went up by a massive 32%. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) find this rise "alarming."

The Health Department in Houston is committed to addressing this issue head-on. They have made the decision to make STD testing and treatment at their health clinics free of charge to all patients. They hope to increase the number of locations where people can get tested for HIV and other STDs by using their mobile clinic.

Many experts think it's related to the stress the COVID-19 pandemic put on health care systems. Public health services, already under strain, were stretched even thinner because of COVID-19. As a result, services related to sexually transmitted infections, like syphilis, faced challenges. Many clinics closed, meaning people missed out on crucial screenings and care. Without a diagnosis and treatment, these individuals might unknowingly spread syphilis.

Understanding Syphilis and Its Dangers

The bacterial infection known as syphilis is transferred mostly through intimate skin-to-skin contact, such as that which occurs during vaginal or anal sex. Sometimes it can also be transmitted through oral sex. If someone has syphilis, touching their sores can spread the infection.

To check for syphilis, doctors usually do blood tests. Syphilis has stages. Early on, patients get painless sores, usually in the mouth, genitals, or rectum. These sores last for a few weeks, even without treatment. If not treated, a rash can appear as the next stage.

Catching syphilis early is key. If found soon, a simple antibiotic, typically penicillin, can treat it. But if the disease has been in the body for a while, the treatment becomes more involved. Without any treatment, syphilis can remain hidden in the body, only to harm vital organs like the brain or eyes years later. It can cause permanent hearing loss, blindness, and even death in the worst cases.

There are barriers to treatment, though. Many feel embarrassed about seeking treatment. For the prevention of syphilis and other illnesses, he emphasized the proper and continuous use of condoms.

The Growing Problem of Congenital Syphilis

A significant concern with the syphilis outbreak in 2023 is the number of babies born with the disease. When a pregnant woman has syphilis and passes it to her baby, it's called congenital syphilis. In 2016, Houston reported 16 cases. Shockingly, by 2021, this rose to 151 cases.

To prevent congenital syphilis, it's vital to test pregnant women early on. Mersiovsky recommends tests during the first prenatal visit and again at 28 weeks. Those in high syphilis rate areas should be retested during delivery. Treatment often involves antibiotics. If the mother has syphilis, she gets penicillin before giving birth to ensure the baby is healthy. If a baby is born with syphilis, they need a specific antibiotic treatment.

The risks of untreated syphilis during pregnancy are grave. It can lead to miscarriage or stillbirth. The CDC states that, sadly, 40% of babies born to mothers with untreated syphilis may either die as newborns or be stillborn.

Protecting Yourself from Syphilis Outbreak 2023: Key Points

  1. Syphilis can often be hidden, so be proactive in your safety measures.
  2. Practice safe sex, which involves:
    • Always using condoms.
    • Limiting your number of sexual partners.
    • Getting tested for STIs regularly.
  3. If you suspect exposure to syphilis or notice symptoms, like mouth or genital sores, seek immediate testing or medical care.
  4. Pregnant women should:
    • Discuss prenatal testing with their healthcare provider.
    • Understand the importance of determining if the fetus is exposed to syphilis.
    • Note that babies with syphilis need penicillin IV treatment for the first two weeks of life.
    • Continue using condoms and practicing safe sex during pregnancy.
  5. If a sexual partner has or might have syphilis, inform your doctor immediately to ensure treatment for both and protection for your baby.
  6. Even if initial tests during pregnancy are negative, consider retesting in the third trimester and at delivery, especially if syphilis is common in your area.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the first signs of syphilis?

The early signs of syphilis can include painless sores in the mouth or genital area.

How often should I get tested for syphilis outbreak?

It's good to get tested for syphilis regularly if you're sexually active, especially if you have multiple partners. If you're pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it's essential to get tested during your prenatal visits to protect your baby.

Can syphilis be completely cured?

Yes, when caught early, syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. However, if left untreated for a long time, it might cause severe health issues, so early detection and treatment are key.

Copyright 2023