Mississippi Reports 900% Increase In Babies Born With Syphilis

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Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Mississippi reported a 900 percent increase in babies born with congenital syphilis in the last five years, according to an analysis published Saturday.

Hospitals in Mississippi treated at least 102 cases of congenital syphilis in 2021, compared to just 10 cases in 2016, according to data shared by NBC News. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that passes from mother to child during pregnancy, and is a life-threatening disorder that can sometimes go months without showing symptoms.

Children born with syphilis who go more than three months without treatment can suffer significant complications, NBC noted. The disease can have wide-ranging impacts, including the deformation of bone structure, jaundice, liver and spleen enlargement and significant brain and nerve problems such as blindness and deafness, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Former state health officer Dr. Thomas Dobbs said health care providers “are absolutely horrified” that children are being born with the disorder and, in some rare cases, dying from it, NBC noted.

“This seems like something that should have happened a hundred years ago, not last year,” Dobbs told NBC. “There’s really kind of a shock.” He also tweeted about the situation back January, posting that all women should be tested for syphilis 2-3 times during pregnancy.

The growth in congenital syphilis is not unique to Mississippi. National data from the CDC suggest that the frequency of its diagnosis has doubled from 941 in 2017 to 2,677 in 2021. A majority of children born with syphilis in Mississippi were born to black mothers, NBC noted. (RELATED: Polio Is Circulating Through New York’s Sewage System, Infecting The Unvaccinated)

“In a rural state like Mississippi, we’re going to have to look at where are the pockets of disease and how can we reach those mothers,” a Mississippi-based pediatrician told NBC. “[B]ut I also think our state really has got to look at investing in pregnant women, investing in their health.”