In Mississippi, the number of newborns being treated for congenital syphilis increases by more than 900% in five years, undermining progress by the nation’s poorest states in eliminating what experts say is a preventable public health crisis.
It is In the state, which already has one of the worst infant mortality rates in the nation, the increased number of cases puts newborns at greater risk of being fatally injured.
In 2021, 102 newborns in Mississippi will be treated for sexually transmitted infections, up from 10 in 2016, confirming the medical focus on sexually transmitted infections at the Mississippi Department of Health’s Crossroads Clinic (Jackson).
An analysis of hospital billing data shared by director Dr. Thomas Dobbs reveals.
Former state health official Dobbs said he spoke with medical personnel who were “absolutely horrified” that babies were born with the disease and, in rare cases, died from it.
“It seems like this should have happened 100 years ago, not last year,” said Dobbs, who is also dean of the University of Mississippi Medical Center. “I’m really shocked”
The Mississippi Department of Health has not officially tracked deaths from congenital syphilis, but said at least one baby died in 2021.
Congenital syphilis is caused by transmission from a pregnant mother to her child. If a pregnant woman with syphilis is left untreated, there is an 80% chance that she will pass syphilis to her baby.
Babies infected with syphilis may have no symptoms at first, but complications can become serious if they are not treated within the first 3 months of life. Syphilis can damage your baby’s organs. The disease can affect a child’s nervous system and cause vision and hearing loss. In the most severe cases, newborns die.
The 2021 numbers Dobbs spoke about are the latest indicators of a growing congenital syphilis problem in Mississippi and across the nation. Preliminary data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that the number of cases nationwide will more than double, from 941 in 2017 to at least 2,677 in 2021.
In Mississippi, the Department of Health has not released final figures for 2021 (based on cases reported directly to the state by clinicians), but preliminary figures are based on insurance claim codes Dobbs found. state epidemiologist Paul Byers, M.D.
The resurgence also shows that racial disparities in the state have existed since day one. In 2020, black newborns accounted for 70% of the state’s congenital syphilis cases, even though they accounted for about 42% of the state’s births. In a statement, Byers said he expected a similar disparity in the final state data for 2021.
Congenital syphilis can be prevented by giving the mother an injection of penicillin one month before birth. Babies often have to be hospitalized for the first two weeks of life for intravenous penicillin if the mother is not properly treated.
A growing number of Mississippi mothers and their children are not getting treatment in time.
Some counties in the state do not have obstetricians, and pregnant residents have to travel to seek care.
Depending on the job, taking time off from work will reduce your income, and unstable transportation can make it difficult to make appointments.
And many expectant mothers in Mississippi have to wait weeks for their first prenatal visit. Last year, it took an average of about a month to be approved for public health insurance through Medicaid, which covers most pregnancies in the state.
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