Congenital Syphilis Rises 700% Prompting Colorado Agency to Initiate Health Order

Congenital Syphilis
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Infection is transmitted from pregnant mothers to their fetus.Governor of Colorado Jared Polis is organizing his administration to launch an all-out effort to save the lives of infants afflicted with congenital syphilis and other syphilis-related illnesses.

A public health order was released by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment on Thursday, identifying the pandemic and increasing the number of pregnant women who can get tested. The health order mandates that healthcare providers offer syphilis testing at the following intervals: during the first and third trimesters of pregnancy; during delivery; at the time of fetal death after 20 weeks of gestation; at correctional facilities; and whenever a pregnant patient presents to urgent care. It states that the infection is preventable through timely testing and treatment during pregnancy.

“Syphilis was once a rare disease,” Jill Hunsaker Ryan, executive director of the state health department, said in a release. “We are very concerned about this growing epidemic, both in the state and nationally. It is devastating for babies, but there is an effective treatment if caught in utero. The public health order that I am issuing will help us catch more of these cases prior to birth.”

The transmission of a syphilis infection from a woman to her fetus results in congenital syphilis. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention state that it can result in a variety of serious health issues, including severe anemia, brain and nerve disorders, and even the loss of the unborn child.

According to the CDC, 40% of infants with untreated congenital syphilis may experience a stillbirth or pass away from the illness.

Congenital syphilis cases in Colorado climbed more than seven times between 2018 and 2023, from seven instances in 2018 to 50 cases in 2023, according to state data.

Twenty-five cases of congenital syphilis, including five stillbirths and two neonatal deaths, have been reported to the state thus far this year.

The same thing excites every expecting parent: a happy and healthy child. In his statement, Polis stated that “this statewide, coordinated response will help provide more consistent testing and care for those who are pregnant to help save lives and protect public health.”

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