128% rise in syphilis cases in Houston area linked to pregnant women, health department says

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Saturday, July 15, 2023
Houston health officials attribute recent pregnancies to syphilis rise
There is a 128% increase in the Houston area of syphilis cases that have been linked to pregnant women, according to the city's health department.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- A significant outbreak of syphilis is happening in Houston, and leaders are doing what they can to get the word out to stop it.

The Houston Health Department says it's a crisis. There has been a 128% increase in cases among women and a nine-fold rise in congenital syphilis in Houston and Harris County.

The health department reported more than 1,800 cases of syphilis in 2019 and more than 2,900 cases in 2022. That's a 57% increase. In 2019, there were 295 reported cases among women, but then in 2022, the total was 674.

RELATED: More Texas babies are being born with syphilis, experts explain why

The rise is mainly attributed to pregnant women who ended up passing the disease to their babies.

"Let's talk about those pregnant females of childbearing capacity. They need to test at their first prenatal visit, at the third trimester, and delivery. We can encourage people with multiple partners to test for it and for STI," Lupita Thornton with the Houston Health Department said.

To help curb this issue, the health department is waiving clinical fees for people to get tested so that the problem can be treated immediately.

Syphilis can go undetected because some have zero visible signs, or certain symptoms can be misinterpreted.

REPORT FROM 2019: Harris County ranked No. 1 for highest STD cases, state report says

If you are a pregnant woman or someone who has had unprotected sex, multiple partners, and/or anonymous partners, you need to get tested. To get information on testing, call 832-292-5010.