Newly released data from the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment shows a sustained increase in the number of syphilis cases in newborn babies. A total of 18 cases of congenital syphilis were reported in Colorado from 2013 to 2018.
“Colorado’s case numbers still are small, but even one case of syphilis in a newborn is too many,” said Dr. Daniel Shodell, deputy director of the CDPHE’s Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division.
This follows national trends, as well. Overall the U.S. has seen a steady rise in Sexually Transmitted Diseases over the years, with the South and Northeastern parts of the country seeing the greatest increases, particularly with gonorrhea, and chlamydia. In the West, rates of syphilis are highest.
“It’s a really hot topic of discussion, not just in Colorado but nationally, in terms of what is […] driving these increases in sexually transmitted infections,” Shodell said. “And there is no single reason. There is no smoking gun.”
A few theories Shodell offered as to what could be contributing to the rise are: an increase in the availability of health care because of the Affordable Care Act, a lack of access to treatment for marginalized communities and the rise in popularity of dating apps.
Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit, Shodell said. The disease can lead to miscarriage or birth defects but is treatable.
In addition to syphilis, Colorado saw increased rates in other STDs, including a 41.9 percent increase in gonorrhea between 2016 and 2017.
“We urge people to use condoms, talk to their partners and health care providers about STIs and sexual health, get tested and get treatment,” Shodell said.