Houston health officials are warning residents of a syphilis epidemic that is responsible for a 128 percent increase in cases among women.
The Houston Health Department said this has led to a ninefold increase in congenital syphilis in Houston and Harris County.
New infections increased by 57 percent, from 1,845 in 2019 to 2,905 in 2022, the statistics show.
Last year, the number of cases among women was 674, which is more than 295 cases in 2019.
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Congenital syphilis increased from 16 cases in 2016 to 151 cases in 2021, the latest year for which data are available.
The department said Thursday it would launch a rapid response to address the problem, including increasing screening opportunities, targeting hotspots and mobilizing community partners to prevent new infections.
“It is very important for pregnant women to receive prenatal care and syphilis screening to protect themselves from an infection that could result in the death of their babies,” Marlene MacNeice Ward. , deputy assistant director in the department’s Bureau of HIV/STI and Viral Hepatitis Prevention. , said in a statement. “A pregnant woman needs to be tested for syphilis three times during pregnancy.”
The department is waiving all medical fees for sexually transmitted infections at health centers and expanding the use of its HIV/STD mobile clinics.
It is also working with medical providers and collaborating with community-based partners to increase awareness of the outbreak and improve testing and treatment.
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Screening is recommended three times: at a woman’s first prenatal visit, during the third trimester, and at birth.
Untreated syphilis during pregnancy can result in the death of the baby during delivery or shortly after birth.
Notably, people who have syphilis are at increased risk of HIV infection because of the painless sores that develop at the site of sexual contact during the early stages of the disease.
While syphilis can be easily treated with antibiotics without treatment., gave The infection progresses to the secondary stage when one or more areas of the skin become itchy.
Yet, in most cases, syphilis goes undetected because the signs and symptoms are misinterpreted or ignored.
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If left untreated, the bacterium that causes syphilis remains in the body and begins to damage internal organs.
The department provides services to pregnant women at their initial antenatal visits, third trimester and delivery, people with unprotected sex, with multiple sex partners, men with anonymous sex partners and recently diagnosed with another sexually transmitted disease. Recommends syphilis testing for affected individuals.