Houston’s Syphilis Rates Skyrocket, Officials Say

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Brent Foster Contributor
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Houston is currently in the grips of a massive syphilis outbreak. Cases of the disease for women increased to the tune of 128% across Houston and Harris County, the Houston Health Department (HHD) wrote in a Thursday press release.

Congenital syphilis cases also experienced a dramatic increase, the HHD wrote in the release.

“It is crucial for pregnant women to seek prenatal care and syphilis testing to protect themselves from an infection,” HHD official Marlene McNeese Ward said in the release.

Ward emphasized the potential fatal nature of the disease for babies before saying any “pregnant woman needs to get tested for syphilis three times during her pregnancy.”

New syphilis infections rose from 1,845 in 2019 to 2,905 in 2022 with cases among women rising from 295 to 674 in the same period, according to the HHD.

Antibiotics can treat syphilis but a lack of treatment leaves people vulnerable to a secondary stage of the disease, the release continued. (RELATED: Ohio Officials Ask For CDC’s Help As Measles Outbreak Sickens Dozens Of Children)

Secondary stage syphilis symptoms can include skin rashes, fever, patchy hair loss, headaches, swollen lymph glands, weight loss, sore throat, muscle aches and fatigue, according to the HHD.

A response to the outbreak will encompass targeted, increased screening for the disease and collaboration with community partners. Clinical fees for sexually transmitted infections (STIs) will be waived at HHD health centers, the department wrote in the release.