WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Health officials say there has been a rise in STDs nationwide and Kansas has seen a spike in syphilis cases, resulting in newborn deaths.
The CDC released the Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Surveillance Report, 2018. The report provides data which marks 2018 as the fifth consecutive year for increases in chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis.
Sexually transmitted infections of all kinds have been increasing in Kansas since 2015, but the largest increase has been in syphilis cases, which have nearly tripled in the past five years.
The report also shows that Kansas ranks 15th in the nation for congenital syphilis cases when adjusted for population, despite ranking much lower in syphilis infections among adults.
NATIONAL RATES OF SYPHILIS:
The most alarming threat is to newborn babies. The report shows the number of babies born with syphilis has reached its highest level in over 20 years, with eight cases in Kansas for the year of 2018.
The eight cases in Kansas were of congenital syphilis, a form of syphilis that is passed from a mother to her baby during pregnancy. Over the previous four years, only one case was reported in Kansas.
The CDC stresses that we must stop syphilis, too many babies are needlessly dying. The total number of cases in the nation is 1,306 in 2018, the most since 1995.
“A baby that is born infected with syphilis may become developmentally delayed, have seizures, or die if the infection is not detected and treated during the mother’s pregnancy,” said Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE).
Dr. Lee Norman says untreated syphilis cases in pregnant women result in infant death in nearly 40 percent of cases.
The Sedgwick County Health Department says it is crucial for pregnant women to get tested throughout their pregnancy.
“One of the things we are pushing, especially pregnant women, get in, have that first visit, make sure they’re tested, get tested again third trimester and then get tested again after delivery,” said John Lucero, Jr, STI-TB Program Manager. “Because you can be infected anywhere during that process and then the baby becomes infected.”
Lucero says that symptoms vary from patient to patient so it’s best to be proactive, especially during pregnancy.