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PHILADELPHIA (CBS Local)— Cases of babies born infected with syphilis have reached a level not seen in two decades.
According to figures released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Tuesday, there were 918 cases of congenital syphilis reported in 2017, the highest level since the 1990s. That’s where a pregnant mother passes on the sexually-transmitted disease to her baby.
For comparison, there were only 99 cases of HIV in newborns reported in 2016.
The Aids Healthcare Foundation reported last year that in 2015, 487 cases of congenital syphilis were reported, about half the CDC’s 2017 number.
Rates of congenital syphilis higher among babies born to Black and Latina mothers, the CDC said.
It’s part of an overall upward trend for sexually-transmitted diseases in the U.S. Cases of syphilis, gonorrhea and chlamydia reached a record high at nearly 2.3 million in 2017.
The California Dept. of Public Heath recently reported that in the state alone, 300,000 cases were reported in the same year, a 45 percent increase from five years prior. State health officials said cases of congenital syphilis jumped from eight in 2013 to 47 in 2017.
One doctor called the spike in the potentially deadly disease – which can deform or even kill babies – “shameful.” The CDC reported that nationwide, 77 were stillborn or died last year.
The disease is transmitted through contact with syphilitic sores, or chancres, which can be located on the genitals, in the vagina or rectum, around the anus, or in and around the mouth.
Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics. Pregnant women should be tested for the disease at their first prenatal visit, according to the CDC.
(© Copyright 2018 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)