Syphilis Cases Increasing in California Women and Newborns

Soumya Karlamangla, Los Angeles Times, July 13, 2015

Part of a nationwide trend, cases of syphilis among women and newborns increased in the last two years in California and Los Angeles County, state officials said Monday.

The annual number of reported early cases of the sexually transmitted disease among women rose from 248 to 594 from 2012 to 2014.

In the same period, cases of congenital syphilis–in which a mother infects her child during pregnancy–surged in the state, with annual cases in newborns rising from 30 to 100.

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Most of the congenital cases occurred in Los Angeles County and the Central Valley, according to department officials. Stillbirths caused by syphilis also rose from one case in 2012 to six in 2014.

Thirty-one of the state’s 100 cases of congenital syphilis last year were in Los Angeles County, said Dr. Susie Baldwin, head of the health assessment unit of the county’s Department of Public Health.

Baldwin said that most of those women didn’t have adequate access to medical care. Ten of them were foreign nationals who arrived in the county late in their pregnancies, so little is known about their prenatal care, she said.

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In 2013, California’s syphilis rate was already second highest in the nation, after Georgia, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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Nationally, there was an 11% increase in primary and secondary cases between 2012 and 2013, with 75% of them reported among gay men, according to the CDC.

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