Maricopa County health staff alarmed by rise in babies born with STD

Feb 20, 2019, 1:00 PM
(AP Photo)...
(AP Photo)
(AP Photo)

PHOENIX – The rate of babies born in Maricopa County infected with syphilis has doubled in the past two years, a worrisome trend Arizona health officials want to reverse.

Over two dozen infants born last year had the sexually transmitted disease passed to them in their mothers’ wombs. Of the 30, five died from complications of the infection.

“The increase in congenital syphilis rates is directly attributed to an increase in syphilis among both men and women and a failure to screen for syphilis during pregnancy,” Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, director for Disease Control at Maricopa County Public Health, said in a Wednesday press release.

Arizona’s largest populated county is almost 60 percent higher than the national average for congenital syphilis, department documentation showed.

Congenital syphilis can cause babies to be born with deformed bones, brain and nerve issues, blindness, meningitis and sever anemia, among other health problems.

Arizona law requires testing for syphilis during the mother-to-be’s first prenatal visit or first medical visit of the pregnancy.

Sunenshine said doctors should be more diligent during patient screenings.

“Syphilis can be treated and cured with just penicillin, but you have to know it’s there to treat it,” she said.

The congenital form of the STD can also cause miscarriages, stillbirths, death shortly after delivery and low birth weight.

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Maricopa County health staff alarmed by rise in babies born with STD