By: Krystle Crossman
Valley Children’s Healthcare in California is seeing a problem with newborns that hasn’t been seen in many years. Pediatrician M Nael Mhaissen moved to California recently and was shocked to see what one of his neonatal patients was showing signs of. She was displaying all of the symptoms of congenital syphilis. In the last four years the number of cases of syphilis has increased by more than 33%. In 2015 there were 472 babies that were born and diagnosed with congenital syphilis. This number is alarming and shows evidence of the growing number of STDs in the U.S. over the last few years.
Syphilis is a very dangerous disease, especially if it is not caught and treated early on. In adults it can lead to dementia (syphilitic insanity), paralysis, and even blindness. When a woman who has syphilis becomes pregnant there are many different outcomes. She could have a completely healthy baby. Unfortunately the most common outcome is a miscarriage or a premature birth. When babies are born with congenital syphilis they can develop eyesight issues, fluid retention and pressure on their heart, and deformities in their skeletal system. These problems can be treated but there are some that happen later in life that the child will carry with them into adulthood.
Fortunately for the babies who are born with syphilis, a round of antibiotics like penicillin will take care of the infection. The problem is that if it is not caught early enough there may be damage that has been done that cannot be reversed at all. CDC employee Sarah Kidd says that the sad part is that all of these cases of babies born with syphilis shows just how broken our healthcare system is. The only way that the baby will contract the disease is if the mother is not treated. Kidd says that the government and our healthcare system are not doing enough to educate men and women on the dangers of STDs, how to prevent them, and how to get them treated if they do contract a disease. There are also many areas where low-cost prescriptions or free clinics are not available which leads to many undiagnosed and untreated diseases.
Ken Bird is a health officer in Fresno and he stated that this problem is becoming more and more widespread in this area. California is the state that has the most cases diagnosed. The health department in Fresno did research and found that a majority of the mothers who were passing syphilis on to their babies were drug users, namely meth.