Adult, congenital syphilis cases skyrocket in Wisconsin

(Source: Gray Media)
(Source: Gray Media)(Source: Gray Media)
Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 9:40 PM CDT
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) - Wisconsin health officials are reporting that cases of adult and congenital syphilis are skyrocketing in the state.

The highest rates are being reported in Milwaukee, the Department of Health Services notes, with an increase by nearly 300% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Dr. Ryan Westergaard, Chief Medical Officer for Bureau of Communicable Diseases, said they are especially concerned about the rate of cases in infected pregnant women who pass the infection to their fetus.

“The spike in syphilis cases is alarming,” said Dr. Westergaard. “We are especially concerned with cases of congenital syphilis affecting babies born to mothers with syphilis. Congenital syphilis can have devastating consequences but is preventable with simple screening, early detection, and treatment.”

If left untreated, doctors say syphilis bacteria can affect many organ systems. Doctors also warn that 40% of babies with congenital syphilis may be born stillborn or die from the infection.

Dr. Westergaard said to prevent these issues, it’s important for pregnant people who live in areas where there are high rates of the STI to be screened at least twice during their pregnancy, once in the first trimester and again in the third.

Counties where a repeat third trimester testing is recommended include Brown, Dane, Milwaukee, Racine, Waukesha and Winnebago counties.

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