CDC: Prenatal Syphilis Screening

The number of reported cases of congenital syphilis (CS) has increased every year since 2012, and from 2012 to 2016, the rate has increased 87%. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has intensified its efforts to address this concerning trend. For example, CDC recommends syphilis screening for all women at the first prenatal healthcare visit, and for women who are at high risk of contracting syphilis or live in a community with high prevalence, repeat testing early in the third trimester (between 28 and 32 weeks) and again at delivery.

In order to assess U.S. state laws related to prenatal syphilis screening, including whether these laws align with CDC screening recommendations and whether they include legal penalties for failing to screen, CDC conducted a study on “State Requirements for Prenatal Syphilis Screening in the United States, 2016.” The study found that:

  • Forty-five states (including DC) require syphilis screening in pregnant women:
    • Thirty-eight during the first trimester
    • Seventeen during the third trimester, and
    • Eight at delivery
  • Fourteen states include punishments (civil penalties, criminal penalties, or professional license revocation) for failing to screen
  • Seven states have laws that correspond to, or go beyond, the CDC recommendations for syphilis screening in pregnant women

Given that CS rates have continued to increase in the U.S. and the use of appropriate screening and treatment may prevent CS, an understanding of current state laws requiring prenatal syphilis testing may be important for CS prevention efforts.

Review the study and check out the below resources:

About Kim Rodgers

Kim Rodgers serves as a Communications Specialist at NACCHO. Her work includes promoting local health departments' best practices, as well as partner tools and resources, in infectious disease and preparedness through NACCHO's communications channels, storytelling, and outreach to various audiences.

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