Cases of babies born with syphilis rise during COVID pandemic in Nevada, CDC says

By: - April 13, 2022 12:33 pm
baby foot in hospital

During the 2021 Legislative session, lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 192 requiring emergency rooms at hospitals and other medical facilities admitting pregnant women to examine women for syphilis. (Photo by Vidal Balielo Jr. from Pexels)

Nevada had the nation’s fourth highest rate of babies born with syphilis during 2020, according to a new report from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.

Data released this week from the CDC showed the state reported 46 cases in 2020, which translates to a rate of 131.2 per 100,000 live births of congenital syphilis, when the mother passes the disease during pregnancy.

New Mexico had the highest rate with 42 cases, or 182.9 cases per 100,000. Texas reported 561 cases, or 148.6 per 100,000 live births. 

Nationwide, the CDC reported 2,148 cases of congenital syphilis, including 149 stillbirths and infant deaths related to the disease in 2020 and early findings 2,268 already reported foi 2021. 

During the 2021 Legislative session, lawmakers passed Assembly Bill 192 requiring emergency rooms at hospitals and other medical facilities admitting pregnant women to examine women for syphilis. 

The bill went into effect July 2021. 

Democratic Assemblywoman Lesley Cohen said at the time that the legislation was a response to high infection rates in previous years. 

“In 2018, we had the highest rates of primary and secondary syphilis in the nation and we had the second highest rates of congenital syphilis,” she said during a bill hearing in May 2021. “The trends haven’t been getting better for us over the last few years.”

During her presentation she said the CDC reported a “289% increase in congenital syphilis between 2015 and 2018” in Nevada.  

The CDC’s most recent findings showed that while there was a 15% increase of syphilis among newborns since 2019 there has been a 235% increase since 2016.

“The COVID-19 pandemic put enormous pressure on an already strained public health infrastructure,” said Jonathan Mermin, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention, in a statement. “There were moments in 2020 when it felt like the world was standing still, but STDs weren’t. The unrelenting momentum of the STD epidemic continued even as STD prevention services were disrupted.”

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Michael Lyle
Michael Lyle

Michael Lyle (MJ to some) has been a journalist in Las Vegas for eight years.  He started his career at View Neighborhood News, the community edition of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. During his seven years with the R-J, he won several first place awards from the Nevada Press Association and was named its 2011 Journalist of Merit. He left the paper in 2017 and spent a year as a freelance journalist accumulating bylines anywhere from The Washington Post to Desert Companion. While he covers a range of topics from homelessness to the criminal justice system, he gravitates toward stories about race relations and LGBTQ issues. Born and mostly raised in Las Vegas, Lyle graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and Media Studies. He is currently working on his master's in Communications through an online program at Syracuse University. In his spare time, Lyle cooks through Ina Garten recipes in hopes of one day becoming the successor to the Barefoot Contessa throne. When he isn’t cooking (or eating), he also enjoys reading, running and re-watching episodes of “Parks and Recreation.” He is also in the process of learning kickboxing.