Syphilis cases up 244% in Minnesota in last decade, health department says

Syphilis cases up 244% in Minnesota over 10 years


Syphilis cases up 244% in Minnesota over 10 years

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MINNEAPOLIS — Health officials in Minnesota are warning about a surging infection spreading from mothers to babies.

The Minnesota Department of Health says 29 babies were born with congenital syphilis last year — the highest number in more than 40 years.

Overall cases of syphilis are up 244% in Minnesota in the last decade. Among women, early syphilis cases have increased by over 1,800%, according to MDH.

Syphilis is usually spread through sexual contact. Congenital syphilis occurs when someone passes their infection on to their fetus during pregnancy, which can cause severe complications such as miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth and brain or nerve problems.

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The state is asking Minnesota health care providers to screen all pregnant people at least three times during pregnancy — at the first prenatal visit, early in the third trimester and at delivery. Pregnant people with symptoms of syphilis or that a sexual partner that was recently diagnosed with an STD should have additional screenings.

The health department says that the infection disproportionately affects American Indian, Black and Hispanic communities, citing a multiple factors, including “differences in health insurance coverage, employment status, and access to preventive, screening and curative services.”

“The updated congenital syphilis screening recommendations are an important tool to help close some of those gaps. Ongoing, additional community investment and outreach are needed to address the root causes of our state’s health disparities,” said Dr. Nathan Chomilo, medical director for the State of Minnesota’s Medicaid and MinnesotaCare programs.

MDH recommends health providers consider syphilis screening for all sexually active patients.

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