Feb 8, 2024 - Health

Syphilis cases surge in San Antonio and Texas amid national rise

Reported congenital syphilis cases per 100k births, 2022
Data: CDC; Map: Tory Lysik/Axios Visuals

Syphilis is surging in Bexar County and in Texas, mirroring a national trend of cases rising to their highest levels since the 1950s, new federal data shows.

Zoom in: Last month Metro Health released a surveillance report, showing the rate of syphilis cases in Bexar increased by 110.9% between 2011 and 2021.

  • The rate of cases in Bexar has consistently outpaced the state and national levels.

By the numbers: With 246.8 cases per 100,000 births, Texas had the 4th highest rate of congenital syphilis in the country, which is when the infection passes from mother to fetus.

  • New Mexico had the highest (355.3 cases per 100,000 live births), according to a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report.
  • Nearly 6 in 10 congenital syphilis cases were reported in just five states, the CDC said: Texas, California, Arizona, Florida and Louisiana.

Zoom out: Nationally syphilis cases increased 17% to more than 207,000 in 2022 and are up nearly 80% since 2018.

  • There were 3,755 cases of congenital syphilis in the U.S. in 2022, resulting in 282 stillbirths and infant deaths from a disease that is typically preventable with early detection and treatment.

What they're saying: The nation's efforts to combat sexually transmitted infections has reached "a tipping point," said Laura Bachmann, acting director of the CDC's division of STD prevention.

  • "We have long known that these infections are common, but we have not faced such severe effects of syphilis in decades," Bachmann said in a statement.
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