US health officials alarmed by ‘dire’ riseUS health officials alarmed by ‘dire’ rise

US health officials alarmed by ‘dire’ rise in dangerous, preventable syphilis infections in babies

Urgent action is being called for by US health officials to stop an alarming rise in the number of newborns born with syphilis.

Syphilis in infants can be a serious, debilitating, and occasionally fatal infection. Congenital syphilis is the term for infection contracted by an unborn child from an infected mother.

US health officials

Since congenital syphilis is almost always preventable if detected and treated in a timely manner, every case is regarded as a “never event”—a tragic outcome that should never occur. Almost invariably, a single course of penicillin administered at least one month prior to the conclusion of a pregnancy stops infected mothers from transferring the bacteria to their unborn children.

However, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported on Tuesday that more than 3,700 babies were born in the US in 2022 with syphilis, a 32% increase from the previous year and a tenfold, or 1,000%, increase since 2012. A recent study that was included in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report states that close to 300 of those infants either died or were stillborn. US health officials.

During a press briefing, Dr. Laura Bachmann, chief medical officer of the CDC’s Division of STD Prevention, stated that the new figures are the highest to be recorded in the US in over 30 years.

The chief medical officer of the CDC, Dr. Debra Houry, stated in a news release that “the congenital syphilis crisis in the United States has skyrocketed at a heartbreaking rate despite repeated warnings and calls to action.” US health officials.

Untreated syphilis not only increases the risk of stillbirth but also compromises an unborn child’s organs, bones, eyes, and hearing. It may cause health issues that last a lifetime.

The CDC declared on Tuesday, in words that were unusually harsh, that the state of affairs in the US had reached “dire” and “alarming” proportions. It also urged all members of the medical community, not only obstetricians and gynecologists, to assist in identifying and treating infected individuals in order to save infants. US health officials.

Ineffective attempts to stop the trend Dr. Deepika Sankaran, a neonatologist at Marysville, California’s Adventist Health and Rideout Regional Medical Center, believes this is the best course of action, despite the fact that changing one’s perspective in medicine is difficult. US health officials.

at May, Sankaran told CNN that she had attempted to launch a new program at her hospital’s emergency room because she was so concerned about the number of infants she was treating for syphilis.  She requested that ER doctors check for syphilis in every pregnant patient they encountered.

When we followed up with her on Monday to inquire about the progress of the endeavor, she informed us, “Unfortunately, that is not happening.” US health officials.

Because patients seeking emergency care had urgent needs, she added, the ER was not testing pregnant women because screening is not something emergency rooms are accustomed to doing or considering.

“I believe that if the CDC declares that helping ob-gyns at their point of contact—which could be once, if at all, before women give birth—should fall under the purview of the entire health care system, Sankaran added. “I believe that would be a significant step in lowering the number of infants born with congenital syphilis.” US health officials.

Congenital syphilis was probably going to rise, but a 32% increase in just one year is startling and indicates that America’s public health system for STIs and maternal and child health has collapsed, according to Harvey. US health officials.

Harvey stated that his organization is requesting more action from the government to combat STDs.

Harvey declared, “We want a White House syphilis response coordinator.” “We’re hoping for the same outcome as we did with MPOX.” In order to finance the initiative, the group is also requesting a $1 billion commitment from the Biden administration. US health officials.

During the summer of 2022, the Biden administration designated a response coordinator and deputy coordinator to oversee government attempts to contain the mpox outbreak, which was primarily affecting sexually active gay males in the US. US health officials.

Harvey claimed that although the US Department of Health and Human Services unveiled the first federal plan to address STDs in June, it was insufficient. US health officials.

He declared, “We believe that this administration needs to start taking saving the lives of babies much sooner rather than later.” US health officials.

Threat to prevention initiatives

Harvey stated that despite the CDC’s stern call to action on syphilis on Tuesday, the effort was already being hampered by “a perfect storm” of state budget cuts and a scarcity of Bicillin, a long-acting type of penicillin that is the only medication authorized to treat syphilis in pregnancy.

Republicans and the Biden administration reached an agreement in May during budget talks to keep the government open to reclaim almost $27 billion in funds that had not yet been used to combat COVID-19. The agreement terminated the financing that state health departments had been receiving for the previous two years in order to hire disease intervention specialists—educators skilled in locating contacts and ensuring that patients receive treatment for infectious diseases. US health officials.

For instance, the Louisiana Department of Health employed 28 full-time disease intervention specialists with the help of that financing, which totaled more than $14 million. The programs connected to syphilis were the main emphasis of this organization. US health officials.

Louisiana lost $5.7 million of the federal assistance that was promised when it was cut. The CDC extended the program’s flexibility so that states could continue to US health officials any money that remained unspent until January 31, 2026, or an extra two years.

Louisiana refused to say how much money remained to pay for the program.

In addition to the reduction in financing, physicians are rushing to locate limited quantities of the injectable drug Bicillin-LA.

The White House Drug Shortage Task Force was encouraged in October by a coalition of 39 organizations to give expanding the US supply of Bicillin top priority.  It is anticipated that the antibiotic scarcity won’t be rectified until the middle of 2024.

The repercussions of the limited supply are unknown as of yet because the report’s data comes from 2022, the year before the shortage was identified.

“There haven’t been any reports of shortages affecting pregnant women or people receiving treatment up to this point. Thus, the lack of Bicillin has not been connected to any documented cases of congenital syphilis, according to Dr. Robert McDonald, the primary author of the recent paper and an epidemiologist at the CDC.

In nearly all cases, testing and treatment are overlooked.

Researchers from the CDC gathered data on congenital syphilis cases that were reported by all states and territories for the latest report. 3,761 cases of congenital syphilis, including 231 stillbirths and 51 infant deaths, were reported to the CDC in 2022.

The researchers discovered that 88% of the cases involved lost chances to test or cure the birth parents. Mothers who were infected either hadn’t been tested at all or hadn’t been tested in time for a successful intervention in almost one-third of the cases. For the penicillin injection to be effective, it usually needs to be administered one month prior to the end of a pregnancy.

However, US health officials testing frequently did not result in treatment. More than half of the women in the more than 2,100 cases when testing was done and patients were found to be positive received either no therapy at all or insufficient treatment—that is, the incorrect antibiotic was prescribed or the proper dosages of medication weren’t given at the appropriate times.

According to McDonald, “more than half of the people who were diagnosed with syphilis did not receive the necessary treatment.”

Missed treatments are widespread among infected women, who typically belong to the most vulnerable demographics: those with drug use disorders, those with lower incomes and education levels, and those who may be incarcerated.

Deep racial discrepancies were also discovered by the researchers behind the numbers. Congenital syphilis was eight times more common in babies born to Black, Hispanic, American Indian, or Alaska Native mothers than in babies born to White mothers.

“I believe that the rising number of syphilis cases among women is the reason why congenital syphilis cases are still on the rise,” McDonald stated. “And I believe that’s the reason we’re really calling for better syphilis screening of women and sexually active individuals, especially right now.”

A few states have already moved forward. A public health decree mandating that all expecting mothers be tested three times during their pregnancies has been in place since 2020 in New Mexico, which has one of the worst rates of congenital syphilis in the nation. The directive was recently reaffirmed and increased, mandating that all adults between the ages of 18 and 50 have testing performed by physicians.

In areas with high rates of infection, the CDC advises syphilis screening for all sexually active individuals; however, there is no cutoff point that would designate a community as being at risk. Within the framework of the Healthy People 2030 initiative, the organization hopes to bring the number of female syphilis cases down to 4.6 per 100,000. According to McDonald, 70% of Americans would reside in locations where they should be examined for the illness if that criteria for at-risk communities was applied to the whole US.

McDonald reports that in addition to more testing, the CDC is encouraging physicians to start treating patients as soon as the diagnosis is confirmed, which is often a two-step process.

Rather, he suggests that physicians attempt to treat patients at the same visit if a fast screening test utilized in the doctor’s office returns a positive result.

“If you believe that a patient won’t return to the medical system, you should treat them for syphilis at that time and diagnose them with the illness,” the speaker stated.

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