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900% Increase in Number of Newborns with Syphilis in Mississippi - medtigo

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900% Increase in Number of Newborns with Syphilis in Mississippi

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In Mississippi, the number of newborns treated for congenital syphilis, an infection transmitted by their mothers, has climbed drastically over the previous five years. This may be related to limited access to prenatal care and a lack of insurance, according to experts.  

An examination of hospital bill data given with NBC News and collected by the medical director of the Crossroads Clinic at the Mississippi State Department of Health in Jackson, Thomas Dobbs, M.D., finds that congenital syphilis cases increased by more than 900% in Mississippi. In 2021, 102 infants in the state were diagnosed with the disease, compared to 10 infants in 2016. 

Dobbs stated that healthcare professionals are “completely appalled.”  “Mississippi is experiencing an alarming rise in pregnant women with syphilis and, consequently, newborns born with syphilis,” said Dobbs, dean of the John D. Bower School of Public Health at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC).  

Congenital syphilis can have dramatic effects on a newborn’s health, including bone deformities, anemia, organ damage, and brain and nerve issues. According to the CDC, the infection may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, and early birth in the most severe cases. 

“Recent infant deaths have been caused by this perfectly preventable issue. Some children with untreated syphilis have been diagnosed with serious neurological development abnormalities, “Dobbs stated in a UMMC press release.  

According to the CDC, all pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal checkup and treated immediately with penicillin if they test positive. Mississippi is one of six states where syphilis testing during pregnancy is not mandated by law.  

In the United States, STDs are growing overall. According to preliminary CDC estimates, the number of syphilis cases will increase from 101,590 in 2017 to 171,070 in 2021. From 2013 to 2016, the number of newly diagnosed cases of syphilis in Mississippi nearly tripled.  

Charlotte Hobbs, M.D., professor of pediatric infectious diseases at UMMC, stated that delayed prenatal care and testing are the primary reasons women with syphilis are not receiving treatment, followed by delays in antibiotic access.  

“To tackle this public health issue, early testing and treatment of pregnant women must be our top priority. This will require a relationship between physicians and clinics, public health, and particularly Medicaid insurers, “She continued. Access to early prenatal care is hampered by lack of insurance and maternal care deserts, according to the doctors. 

Dobbs added, “According to my conversations with physicians from across the state, uninsured pregnant women are required to pay out-of-pocket for care prior to Medicaid approval. Although Medicaid provides retroactive reimbursement, the majority of clinics ask either payment or evidence of insurance. This costly delay often causes women to receive care well after the first trimester.”  

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Children and women are not affected in Mississippi. Moreover, California, Minnesota, and New Mexico have also recorded increases.

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