Last Updated: Feb 15, 2023

There has been a sudden spike in the number of infants born with congenital syphilis in Mississippi. Many health experts have said that it has drawn attention to increasing cases nationwide, particularly in the Southern region. As per the data, the state witnesses nearly 106 cases of congenital syphilis in 2021 which was over nine times the rate of infection in 2018, when only 11 cases were identified. An infectious disease physician from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Thomas Dobbs, and state epidemiologists Dr. Paul Byers and Manuela Staneva have done an analysis of hospital discharge data. However, the preliminary findings of this analysis have not been released by the Mississippi State Department of Health yet. The study highlights concerns regarding the lack of access to prenatal care and insistent inequalities, emphasizing the necessity for better testing protocols. Experts have informed that Mississippi is one of six states in the US that does not need syphilis screening during pregnancy. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported that in the last few years, syphilis incidents have increased threefold in the country.   The authors of the study have said that the Southern region was overwhelmed by systemic racism and frequent inequalities and it contributed to nearly 52 percent of the country’s 1,300 cases of syphilis in 2018. More than a third of the total cases of syphilis were found in the Western region of the nation. Around 21 percent of syphilis cases occurred among Hispanic women, and nearly 40 percent of those cases took place among Black women, who already suffer from unequal rates of maternal and infant deaths. A pediatric infectious disease specialist from the University of Mississippi Medical Center, Dr. Charlotte Hobbs has said that mothers from deprived ethnic communities do not have access to prenatal care along with inadequate required screening, either due to snags in the system itself or issues that they deal with on an individual level. She has said that these mothers are living in an area that already has such a high frequency of such infections and it is a perfect recipe for a catastrophe.

Experts state that Syphilis is a sexually transmitted illness that can cause serious health issues. The good news is that antibiotics are available to treat it. Congenital syphilis occurs when a mother suffering from untreated syphilis disease transfers that disease onto her unborn child. According to the study authors, it can cause blindness, stillbirths, infant death, low birth weight, growth issues, bone deformations, or brain and nerve issues. Children born with the disease rarely show any symptoms. The CDC recommends that pregnant women be tested for syphilis at the very least once during their first prenatal appointment. This is especially important in the first and second trimesters. In the case of high-risk females, during the third. According to data from the CDC, close to half of all infant syphilis incidences in the country were linked in 2018 to differences in testing and prenatal care. Around 9 in 10 infants with syphilis were reported in the South or West that year. The Southern region has been designated as a place of refuge for rural communities that are without maternal health care. It suffered from the COVID-19 disaster when many obstetrical labor and delivery units were shut down and access was restricted to prenatal care. In rural Western states with high Hispanic populations and Indigenous communities, there is also a lack of maternal health care and prenatal care. Dr. Irene Stafford, the associate lecturer at UTHealth McGovern Medical School, stated that multiple studies have demonstrated that people who suffer from syphilis face poverty, intimate partner violence, and mental illness. According to the latest data, 1 of 750 infants in Stafford Texas suffers from congenital Syphilis by Birth. She said that testing should be performed during pregnancy and birth to prevent missed opportunities for diagnosis. The disease is rapidly spreading. Healthcare providers need to screen at the time of delivery to diagnose it promptly. She stated that congenital Syphilis incidences can be decreased if prompt screening and diagnosis take place.

Dr. Irene Stafford has said that apart from Mississippi, New Hampshire, Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Wisconsin are some states that do not require syphilis screening during pregnancy. The chief of the Rural Health Research Center from the University of Minnesota, Katy Kozhimannil has said the unequal load of congenital syphilis rates on infants from the Black community highlights a convergence of reproductive health care fiascos. She has claimed that the unequal load of avoidable, curable illnesses affecting unduly a section of people amplifies the tragic failure of the healthcare system. Healthcare professionals have all the tools that they need to use to effectively avert and cure the disease. If they would have been doing so, the cases of syphilis might not be increasing at this pace and unduly affecting specific communities. Underlining the racial inequalities in incidents, syphilis has also been an extremely defamed disease with origins in medical prejudice toward people from the Black community, like the Tuskegee syphilis study that suspended care for men from the Black community for over 40 years. Dr. Stafford has mentioned in the Journal of the American Medical Association editorial that syphilis is attached to the disgrace of being intertwined with the legacy of Tuskegee, discrimination, distrust of government, and fears about privacy or reporting unfairness, unlike other sexually transmitted diseases. Experts reveal that especially women who suffer from syphilis tend to be silent without support and any representation.



Devoted my whole life to words - reading, writing and trying to be original on social media. Got certified in digital marketing - still not cool enough to be an influencer. Finished a master’s degree focused in Literature, Publishing, Mass Media. Hobbies include traveling, reading and hoping that yoga will be the thing to finally teach me some patience. Would like to take over the world at some point, but that’s an optional dream. Maybe modern tech can help me do that?