Thomas Creger, PhD, MPH – University of Alabama at Birmingham, Division of Infectious Diseases
Tenesha Wallace, MA – Communication and Public Health Manager, Georgia Academy of Family Physician
Congenital Syphilis in Georgia
Over the past 5 years, syphilis cases among women in the US have been increasing. This has led to an increasing number of cases of congenital syphilis cases in the US and in Georgia. There were 628 cases of congenital syphilis reported to CDC in 2016 and 21 of them were from Georgia (ranked 9th in the US). Congenital syphilis is preventable if infection is diagnosed and treated early but screening is critical since most women are asymptomatic. Since 2015, screening for syphilis in pregnancy has been required by law in Georgia (OCGA 31-17-4.2) at the initial prenatal visit and during the 3rd trimester (ideally between 28-32 weeks). It is recommended that women in high incidence areas be tested again at delivery.
Syphilis infection in pregnancy can lead to stillbirth, congenital syphilis, neonatal death and low birthweight. The management of syphilis in pregnancy is similar to non-pregnant women with benzathine penicillin 2.4 million units (MU) intramuscular (IM) administered once for early infection (acquired within the past 12 months) and 2.4 MU IM once weekly for three weeks for latent infection or syphilis of unknown duration.
Clinicians and public health providers should work together in order to ensure diagnosis, treatment, partner therapy and follow up of syphilis-exposed infants. The best way to reduce rates of congenital syphilis is to remind patients about the importance of early and frequent engagement in prenatal care. Increased awareness among providers who care for pregnant women about how to diagnose and manage this preventable infection is also necessary in order to decrease the adverse outcomes of syphilis in pregnancy.
For more information contact:
Office of STD
Georgia Department of Public Health