Alert Issued After Multiple Infants in North Carolina Die from Congenital Syphilis

Raleigh, North Carolina – The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services has raised concerns about the increasing number of stillbirths and infant deaths related to congenital syphilis in the state. From January 1 to September 1 of this year, there have been five reported cases, prompting a public health alert.

This alarming trend has prompted NCDHHS to issue a provider memo urging healthcare providers to take action to prevent congenital syphilis. The rise in syphilis cases in North Carolina, with 57 cases reported in 2022 compared to just one case in 2012, reflects a national trend reported by the CDC of increasing sexually transmitted infections.

Congenital syphilis can have severe consequences if left untreated in pregnant women, leading to life-long adverse health impacts on babies, including bone damage, anemia, jaundice, blindness, deafness, and even miscarriages or stillbirths.

One of the key factors contributing to the spread of congenital syphilis is the lack of prenatal care and missed opportunities to test pregnant women as required by North Carolina’s Public Health Law. Adequate and timely treatment of maternal syphilis is crucial to preventing the transmission of the infection to the baby.

NCDHHS emphasizes the importance of regular screenings for syphilis during pregnancy, even if there are no symptoms present. In 2022, 86% of pregnant women diagnosed with syphilis in the state did not exhibit any symptoms at the time of diagnosis, highlighting the importance of routine screenings.

To address the increasing cases of syphilis, NCDHHS is implementing various initiatives, including provider education campaigns, public awareness programs, and increased access to syphilis testing through the distribution of point-of-care tests. These efforts aim to raise awareness about syphilis, the importance of testing, and the availability of treatment options for pregnant women and their families.

As the state continues to tackle the issue, NCDHHS encourages individuals to seek information on syphilis testing and treatment on the NCDHHS Public Health website. Through collaborative efforts and increased awareness, the hope is to prevent further cases of congenital syphilis and protect the health of mothers and their newborns.