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Number of Newborns with Syphilis Infections Skyrockets in Mississippi

Number of Newborns with Syphilis Infections Skyrockets in Mississippi

Covid policies appear to have contributed to steep rise in congenital syphilis cases.

A disturbing report on the state of public health has been issued for Mississippi, as the cases of babies born with syphilis infections have skyrocketed in that state.

The number of babies in Mississippi being treated for congenital syphilis has jumped by more than 900% over five years, uprooting the progress the nation’s poorest state had made in nearly quashing what experts say is an avoidable public health crisis. The rise in cases has placed newborns at further risk of life-threatening harm in a state that’s already home to the nation’s worst infant mortality rate.

In 2021, 102 newborns in Mississippi were treated for the sexually transmitted disease, up from 10 in 2016, according to an analysis of hospital billing data shared by Dr. Thomas Dobbs, the medical director for the Mississippi State Department of Health’s Crossroads Clinic in Jackson, which focuses on sexually transmitted infections.

Dobbs, the state’s former health officer, said he’s spoken with health care providers who “are absolutely horrified” that babies are being born with the disease, and in rare instances dying from it.

The rise in cases has been particularly steep in the covid era.

…[T] the numbers started ticking up again in 2019, and seemed to get worse during the global pandemic, breaking a record in 2021 with over 100 reported cases, according to data Dobbs shared with NBC News, based on hospital billing information.

At the same time, preliminary data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that syphilis cases across the United States more than doubled from 941 in 2017 to at least 2,677 in 2021.

The Mississippi Department of Health has not yet released its final 2021 numbers, which are based on clinicians reporting cases directly to the state.

But in 2020, the department found that black newborns accounted for 70 percent of the state’s congenital syphilis cases, despite making up only about 42 percent of the state’s live births that year.

Mississippi isn’t the only state observing this crisis. California statistics show the same trend, as noted in an analysis last fall. This reversed a decades-long decrease that once had public health officials convinced they could eradicate syphilis.

Today, California has the sixth-highest rate of congenital syphilis in the country, with rates increasing every year. In 2020, 107 cases per 100,000 live births were reported, a staggering 11-fold increase from a decade prior. That rate far exceeds the California Department of Public Health’s 2020 target to keep congenital syphilis numbers below 9.6 cases per 100,000 live births — a goal it outstripped almost as soon as it was set.

Even more shockingly, the syphilis rate among women of childbearing age was 53 times higher than the 2020 goal.

At one point in the late 1990s, rates were so low across the U.S. that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention thought syphilis among men and women could be effectively eradicated from the population. After all, in many cases a single shot of penicillin is all that’s needed to curb the infection. But at both the national and state level, public health departments were overstretched and woefully underfunded. People slipped through the cracks, and sexually transmitted infections of all types began to skyrocket once more.

Diverting all the funds and resources to fight the losing battle against covid was not helpful and likely exacerbated the problem. Additionally, covid mandates and pandemic policy led health professionals to seek other employment options.

Dr. Threlkeld points to a large number of healthcare workers leaving their jobs following the COVID outbreak. He says there are not enough professionals to follow up with pregnant women who test positive for syphilis.

“This is just one of those examples where we have the data, we know about the cases but you have to have the manpower to diagnose the patients, then do contact tracing and follow up to make sure they’re continuing to come back for treatment,” Threlkeld said.

Dr. Threlkeld says most states suggest or require syphilis testing at least twice during pre-natal care. Some states suggest another test when the baby is delivered, particularly for women engaging in high-risk behavior.

This development is terribly concerning. Congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, the death of a newborn, deformed bones, blindness, severe anemia, and a wide array of other adverse health effects. The congenital infections may not even be detectable when the baby is born.

In conclusion, there is good reason to add these babies to the toll of children for whom the pandemic over covid will have long-term adverse consequences.


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People too often can’t seem to control themselves. Self control is one of the things that is supposed to separate us from animals.

Syphillis? What is this, the 1920s?

    henrybowman in reply to Virginia42. | February 13, 2023 at 3:16 pm

    Maybe it’s 1972. Which is the year the US government finally stopped a “study” of black men to whom they secretly GAVE syphilis and then never treated them for it, despite the cure being known by 1945.
    And I was going to say Mississippi, but no, that was Alabama.
    I wouldn’t be surprised to hear this was happening to children of illegals in California, but I’m disappointed to hear it’s black families in Mississippi.

That national figure seems low when there are 102 newborns with it in one state alone.

People have been staying away from hospitals, and hospitals have been refusing to treat.

They make a point of spotlighting the overrepresentation of black mothers in congenital syphilis cases, but I’d like to know how many of them were born to unmarried mothers instead.

As we saw with monkeypox, marriage and monogamy seem to have become some kind of bizarre “third rail” in Public Health circles.

    NotCoach in reply to Flatworm. | February 13, 2023 at 11:01 am

    Excellent point.

    Whitewall in reply to Flatworm. | February 13, 2023 at 11:03 am

    Yes, LBJs sainted Great Society War on Poverty. Must not look at the consequences of that Noble War that we are dealing with today.

    The ultimate burden falls on the Grandmothers who have their hands full raising their daughter’s illigitimate children..

    randian in reply to Flatworm. | February 15, 2023 at 7:11 am

    They make a point of spotlighting the overrepresentation of black mothers in congenital syphilis cases

    Indeed, while completely glossing over why this might be the case, presumably because it would racist to notice it.

Hard to believe Patrice has called Ms D Wassermann Test a racist yet.

Hilarious! The most important data were omitted from the story- breakdown by race. Let’s all pretend, once again, it is of equal concern to everyone and race is irrelevant.

    henrybowman in reply to E Howard Hunt. | February 13, 2023 at 3:18 pm

    Did you miss?
    “But in 2020, the department found that black newborns accounted for 70 percent of the state’s congenital syphilis cases, despite making up only about 42 percent of the state’s live births that year.’

      E Howard Hunt in reply to henrybowman. | February 13, 2023 at 3:37 pm

      Thanks, blame it on Evelyn Wood or the pox. Let’s see if the breakdown is given this year. Who knows? Judging from television commercials black men only copulate with pale, white, upperclass, fine featured redheads now.

      Milhouse in reply to henrybowman. | February 13, 2023 at 11:08 pm

      As if one should expect syphilis to be randomly distributed among newborns, so that such a significant disparity needs an explanation, which is obviously racism. When in fact there is no reason to expect a random distribution.

JackinSilverSpring | February 13, 2023 at 2:04 pm

Obviously, this disease is a result of systemic racism of the white race.

Yet another thing to add to the list of all the negative results of the stupid, un-scientific lockdowns, shutdowns and vaccine mandates.

Sexually transmitted diseases have been increasing for a while. Like it or not the younger half of gen z and the millennials were sowing their outs and gen Z is probably more promiscuous. The hook up culture is very real and casual sex is common place. Finding an unmarried woman in her early to mid thirties with less than five sexual partners is like finding a unicorn. For those in their twenties forget it, many have five before HS graduation.

    It ALL started with Bill Clinton, when parents had to explain to their young children watching tv what “oral sex” was. Then oral sex amongst very young children became epidemic and sexualization of children became normalized.

      Do what? The Lewinsky scandal was in the late 90s. I can assure you that oral sex was a thing in the 1980s when I was in HS. It wasn’t something unusual or unattainable even in a tiny rural town in Bama. It wasn’t restricted to a very few ‘bad girls’, it was commonplace. College in the early 90s and sex was routine. Not as carefree as today but on a fourth date back then sex was a given v a tinder hookup today.

      There was a whole lot of sexual revolution well before Monica Lewinsky and Bill Clinton made headlines. See the 60s and 70s; that was before my time but my uncles told told me more than a few stories about those days when I was old enough listen and understand.

        Whitewall in reply to CommoChief. | February 13, 2023 at 10:33 pm


        Milhouse in reply to CommoChief. | February 13, 2023 at 11:12 pm

        As Robert Heinlein put it: “Each generation thinks it invented sex; each generation is totally mistaken. Anything along that line today was commonplace both in Pompeii and in Victorian England; the differences lie only in the degree of coverup – if any.”

Public Health does not treat the public. The main function is data-collecting.