Houston’s health officials have disclosed an alarming syphilis outbreak, witnessing a staggering 128% surge in cases specifically affecting women.

Houston and Harris County experienced a significant surge in congenital syphilis cases, as reported by the Houston Health Department, with a nine-fold increase observed.

According to the data, the number of new infections is expected to increase by 57% from 1,845 in 2019 to 2,905 in 2022.

If last year the total number of infected women was 674, then in 2019 it was already 295.

The incidence of congenital syphilis saw a significant rise from 16 cases in 2016 to 151 cases in 2021, based on the latest available data.

The ministry said on Thursday it would launch a rapid outreach response to address the issue, including ramping up testing capabilities, targeting hotspots, and mobilizing regional partners to prevent new infections.

“For pregnant women, prenatal care and syphilis testing are essential to protect them from infections that can kill their babies,” said Marlene McNeice Ward, associate director of the Agency for HIV/STI and Viral Hepatitis Control. said in a statement. “To ensure optimal prenatal care, it is crucial for pregnant women to undergo three screenings for syphilis during pregnancy, as recommended by healthcare professionals.”

The ministry has waived all charges for sexually transmitted infections at health centers and expanded access to mobile HIV/STD clinics.

We are also working with healthcare providers and community partners to increase awareness of the outbreak and improve testing and treatment.

New Mexico has the highest number of congenital syphilis cases.

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The three tests are recommended at a woman’s first antenatal visit, at the end of pregnancy, and at the time of delivery.

If syphilis is not treated during pregnancy, the baby may be stillborn or die soon after birth.

People with syphilis are especially at risk of contracting HIV because of the painless sores that develop during sexual intercourse in the early stages of the disease.

Syphilis can be easily treated with antibiotics, but without treatment, a secondary infection can occur if a rash develops on one or more areas of the skin.

However, most of the time, syphilis goes undiagnosed because its signs and symptoms are misunderstood or ignored.

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