Two Local Health Departments Awarded Funding to Fight Congenital Syphilis

The below information was originally included within a “Dear Colleague” letter from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Congenital syphilis (CS) has become an alarming problem that urgently requires awareness, attention, and action. Data from the most recent STD Surveillance Report found that the number of CS cases spiked for the fourth year in a row. From 2015-2016 alone, there were a total of 628 cases – a rise of nearly 30% over the previous year. It’s been almost two decades since this many cases were reported.

Up to 40% of babies born to women with untreated syphilis may be stillborn, or die from the infection as a newborn. For those babies who live, it can cause deformed bones, skin rashes, severe anemia, jaundice, enlarged livers and spleen, seizures, developmental delays and other neurologic problems. But while congenital syphilis can have damaging consequences, the disease is highly preventable.

As such, the CDC has awarded nine project areas to strengthen local capacity to address and respond to CS in their community. These areas were among those with the highest number of CS cases and made up a majority of all cases reported to CDC in 2015. The awarded project areas include the California Dept of Public Health; City of Chicago, Dept of Public Health; Florida Dept of Health; Georgia Dept of Public Health; Los Angeles County Dept of Public Health, Louisiana Dept of Health – Office of Public Health; Maryland Dept of Health; Ohio Dept of Health, and the Texas Dept of State Health Services.

Awardees will participate in a CDC-led collaboration and focus their efforts on the following specific activities:

  • Improving CS case data collection, including maternal and fetal epidemiologic and clinical risk factor data
  • Improving collection of pregnancy status for all cases of syphilis among women of reproductive age
  • Strengthening CS morbidity and mortality case review boards at the local and/or State level to help identify causes of CS and develop interventions to address causes
  • Improving methods to match vital statistics birth and mortality data with syphilis surveillance data to review syphilis testing practices among stillbirths, identify missed cases of syphilis-related stillbirth, and strengthen CS stillbirth case report data
  • Strengthening partnerships with local health care providers, community organizations, state and local Title V maternal and child health programs, Medicaid programs, and health care organizations.

Learn more about the project.

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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