Small but rising number of Va. babies born with a preventable disease

In Virginia and nationwide, there’s been a jump in syphilis cases among women of childbearing age. And there’s a corresponding increase in the number of babies born with the condition.

The Virginia Department of Health reports that there were 20 babies born last year with syphilis, the highest number in more than three decades.

“Congenital syphilis cases nationally have increased 185% from 2017 to 2021 … We went from one case that we had in 2003 to 20 cases that were diagnosed in 2022,” said Oana Vasiliu, director of STD prevention and surveillance at the Virginia Department of Health.

The majority of cases in Virginia are among African American and Hispanic babies, and more than a third of moms had late or no prenatal care.

“This is a result of several years of continuous increases of syphilis rates among Virginia populations as well as nationally. To give you an example of the extent of the problem, rates of syphilis among women, in Virginia cases, have increased 159% from 2013 to 2021,” said Vasiliu.

The Virginia health department is alerting health care providers to the importance of STD screening in the first and third trimesters. They’re also directing health care providers to screening guidelines and treatment programs outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Dick Uliano

Whether anchoring the news inside the Glass-Enclosed Nerve Center or reporting from the scene in Maryland, Virginia or the District, Dick Uliano is always looking for the stories that really impact people's lives.

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