The Suffolk County Health Department is urging pregnant women to seek early and regular prenatal care on the heels of a report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about a nationwide increase in cases of newborn syphilis.
County health commissioner Dr. James Tomarken credited the county’s Bureau of Sexually Transmitted Diseases with keeping the number of local cases of newborn syphilis at zero. Tomarken said outreach and education are key to prevention.
“Each year for the past five years, Suffolk County’s Bureau of Sexually Transmitted Diseases has reported on average 29 women who were at risk of giving birth to a baby with congenital — or newborn — syphilis,” Tomarken said Wednesday in a statement. “Fortunately, the number of cases of newborn syphilis in Suffolk County has remained at zero for the past four years, though one baby was born with syphilis in 2013.”
The Nassau County Health Department did not have numbers immediately available.
According to the CDC's annual Sexually Transmitted Disease Surveillance Report, cases of congenital syphilis more than doubled since 2013, from 362 in 2013 to 918 in 2017, outpacing overall increases in STDs nationwide. Congenital syphilis can result in miscarriage, newborn death and severe, lifelong health complications. CDC research shows that there is an 80 percent chance of a mother passing syphilis to her unborn baby if left untested or untreated.
The CDC advises prenatal care is crucial for every pregnancy. All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit, at the beginning of the third trimester — approximately 28 weeks’ gestation — and again at delivery, according to the CDC. Syphilis during pregnancy is easily cured with antibiotics.
For more information about confidential screening for sexually transmitted diseases, call Suffolk County Health Department’s STD Unit at 631-854-0364.