Alarming surge in congenital syphilis cases in Chicago sparks concerns, CDC reports threefold increase in Illinois

Representation for congenital syphilis | Credits: NC Health News
Representation for congenital syphilis | Credits: NC Health News

United States: An alarming trend has been seen among the babies who are born with syphilis in Chicago. The condition is entirely preventable, according to public health experts, as noted by Chicago Sun-Times.

A recent report published last month by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed that the cases associated with the disease have increased by three times across Illinois over the same period.

Along with this, the level of congenital cases has increased by eleven times over a decade. As per the reports published by the CDC, the cases have gone up from 334 cases in 2012 to 3,761 cases in 2022.

Syphilis cases!

The experts have suggested that the disease in the adult population is curable as the infection is mild. However, congenital syphilis could severely affect an individual.  

While addressing the concerns related to STI, the director of HIV/STI testing for the Chicago Center for HIV Elimination – Dr Kimberly Standford, was quoted saying, “There really is no excuse in this day and age for there to be any cases of syphilis, especially not in infants,” according to the reports.

Standford continued saying, “It’s a sign of the many ways in which our health system is failing people, especially the people who need our help the most.”

It is to be noted that if syphilis is left untreated, then it could lead to serious problems, including premature births, stillbirths, and miscarriages. Health experts have mentioned that babies can get infected with syphilis in the womb, which is termed congenital syphilis. The authorities have further outlined that congenital syphilis is dangerous and could also lead to death among infants.

In addition to this, the infection could also result in organ damage, heart failure, fetal anemia, seizures, vision, and hearing damage, as well as developmental and long-term health complications.

Roots of syphilis in the US

According to the data shared by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cases in the United States have increased by 80 percent from 2018 to 2022. Out of the total, around 28 percent of the cases have increased in Illinois during the same period.

The increase in congenital syphilis cases has been notably significant. According to the CDC, instances in Illinois surged from 29 to 85 between 2020 and 2022, according to reports. Likewise, Chicago witnessed a rise from 17 to 46 cases during the same period, as reported by the city’s public health department. This marks a substantial increase from eight cases in 2019. Medical professionals unanimously agree that, ideally, the number of cases should be zero.

In an official statement, the health department mentioned that the city has taken measures to tackle the escalating cases, certain reports suggested. These actions include the formation of a syphilis task force in 2019, improvements in procedures to detect more cases, and an ongoing study to identify contributing factors such as access to adequate healthcare that may be fueling the spike.

The official statement read, “However, much more research and more prevention efforts are needed to adequately curb the resurgence of this epidemic — especially in Black communities, and among young, sexual- and gender minorities.”

Reportedly, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has outlined that cases related to syphilis have increased like no other sexually transmitted infections. CDC stated that cases of Gonorrhea have declined, whereas cases associated with chlamydia have stayed at a similar level.

In this regard, a statement was released by the director of the CDC’s division of STD prevention – Dr Laura Bachmann, which read, “Within the STI epidemic, syphilis is one infection that stands alone. It has emerged as a unique public health challenge.”

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