Last year, more than 100 babies were born with syphilis in Arizona, including nine who were stillborn. Syphilis is completely preventable through timely testing and treatment. Testing should take place three times during pregnancy – at the first prenatal care visit, early in the third trimester (around 28-32 weeks), and at delivery.
In Arizona, there is currently a statewide outbreak of syphilis, a bacterial infection usually spread by sexual contact. In 2016, just 17 Arizona babies were born with syphilis. The number increased to 32 in 2017 and 63 in 2018. That trend has continued with 109 cases in 2019, 119 in 2020 and 135 in the first nine months of 2021.
Syphilis is called “The Great Imitator” because its symptoms can easily be missed. These range from a single painless sore in the first weeks to a rash, especially on the hands and feet. While the symptoms go away without treatment, syphilis can still cause severe health problems that impact your vision, hearing, and possibly your brain.
Syphilis also can cause complications during pregnancy and lead to miscarriage, stillbirth, and infant death. Infants who may initially appear healthy may develop serious health problems, including long-bone deformations, deafness and/or neurological problems. Getting timely testing and treatment can reduce negative health outcomes for both mother and baby.
You can reduce their risk of exposure to all STDs, including HIV, by:
- Using condoms when having any type of sex
- Reducing the number of sexual partners
- Talking to your provider about testing and treatment for STDs.
Not sure where to go for testing? You can find a clinic near you at gettested.cdc.org.