ADPH urging pregnant women to be tested for syphilis

Updated: Dec. 12, 2016 at 11:04 AM CST
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MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The Alabama Department of Public Health and the Alabama Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics are urging women to be tested for syphilis after a number of infants tested positive for the illness.

The ADPH says so far in 2016 at least 10 infants have been born with the severe illness, one of those infants was a still born.

Cathy Wood, M.D., F.A.A.P., president of the AL-AAP, said, "Congenital syphilis is preventable by ensuring that women with syphilis are treated during pregnancy. This can prevent severe illness and even death in newborns."

Congenital syphilis results from untreated syphilis in the infant's mother before delivery. The infection during pregnancy can result in significant health problems for an infant. As much as 40 percent of pregnancies where the mother has untreated syphilis will result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or infant death.

ADPH says it is increasing its testing for syphilis by offering a free test to any woman who is not yet enrolled in prenatal care by the second trimester. While women should be tested for syphilis during pregnancy, the ADPH says eight out of ten mothers whose babies were born with the illness received little to no prenatal care during pregnancy.

"The most important message I can provide pregnant women regarding syphilis is to be tested during pregnancy and get prenatal care," states Karen Landers, M.D., F.A.A.P., Assistant State Health Officer, ADPH.

Infants who live after contracting syphilis may develop bone abnormalities, enlarged spleen, jaundice, anemia, eye problems, deafness, or brain inflammation causing developmental delay and seizures.

Only three cases of congenital syphilis were reported during 2014 to 2015.

For more information regarding syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases, visit

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