LOS ANGELES – Cases of congenital syphilis — which results when the sexually transmitted disease goes untreated during pregnancy — are up dramatically, Los Angeles County health officials said Tuesday.
Only six cases were reported in 2012 — a 12-year low point — while 44 were recorded in 2017, according to the Department of Public Health.
Rates of syphilis among both men and women have been steadily increasing both countywide and across California since 2012, with cases in women up 50 percent from 2016 to 2017.
Infected infants — who can be treated with penicillin if the disease is diagnosed at least 30 days before delivery — can be stillborn or suffer blindness, deafness or skeletal deformations.
DPH recommends at least one-time screening for all women 15 to 44 years old. Prevention is particularly important because more than half of all pregnancies countywide are unplanned, health officials say. A blood test is required for diagnosis.
California law requires that all pregnant women be screened at their first prenatal visit to a doctor, and the department urges women to be re- screened early in the third trimester of their pregnancy and at delivery.
“My goal is to eliminate congenital syphilis case in L.A. County,” said DPH Director Barbara Ferrer, citing collaboration with hospitals, community-based organizations and school districts to raise awareness and boost screenings.
Other county efforts include jail-based screening, expedited partner treatment at local clinics and free and low-cost online ordering options for home delivery of condoms and STD test kits.