Syphilis outbreak in AZ: who it’s impacting and how

Source: Arizona Department of Health Services
Source: Arizona Department of Health Services
Updated: Nov. 27, 2018 at 6:18 AM MST
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Health officials say that both across the country and here in Arizona the number of Syphilis cases is dramatically on the rise.

TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Health officials say that both across the country and here in Arizona, the number of Syphilis cases are dramatically rising. In Arizona, the department of health services is calling the rise in cases an outbreak.

According to the Arizona Department of Health Services, medical professionals are seeing the largest increase of syphilis cases in both women and newborn babies.

“The concern is that we’ve seen it (Syphilis) increase in women, pregnant women and that can lead to congenital Syphilis,” says Paula Mandel, the Director of the Pima County Health Department.

If you want to read up on the signs of Syphilis click here.

Presently, (the numbers are updated in real-time by ADHS) there have been 637 cases of Syphilis in females in Arizona, since January 1st of this year. Among babies, there have been 45 cases this year.

That number of congenital cases is more than double the amount of congenital Syphilis cases that there were in Arizona in 2015, when there were only 14 reported cases for the entirety of that year. In Pima County, the number of congenital cases has been steadily on the rise as well. According to Director Mandel there was one case in 2016, three cases in 2017, and three cases so far this year.

While Syphilis is curable with an antibiotic, the impact it can have on a child in the womb can be severe. Mandel tells Tucson News Now that babies who contract congenital Syphilis can become deaf, have bone deformations, neurological issues, or they can even be still born.

“What we’ve seen both in the nation and in this state is the congenital cases with Syphilis is that these women are usually those that are not engaging in primary care or in prenatal care and so they may not be seen until the time of delivery and then it’s too late,” Mandel says.

As a result of the large increase in Syphilis cases, the Pima County Health Department is pushing for all pregnant women to be advocates for themselves and to make sure that they are being tested often. Mandel says pregnant women should be screened every time they go to their OBGYN or primary caregiver, and that they should be tested at least three times throughout their pregnancy; starting with their first prenatal visit and once every trimester as well.

When it comes to preventing Syphilis, Mandel says it comes down to one thing- being safe. She says make sure you use protection, that you limit your number of sexual partners, and that you get tested frequently and often, whether you’re pregnant or not.

If you want to see what the state of Arizona’s plan is to combat the outbreak click here.

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