Syphilis on the rise

More women in California are contracting and passing disease on to newborns

The reported number of syphilis cases among women in California has doubled over the past two years, while congenital cases, in which the disease is passed from mother to newborn, have more than tripled.

From 2012 to 2014, reports of syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease, among women increased from 248 to 594 and congenital cases increased from 30 to 100, according to a press release from the California Department of Public Health. Dr. Karen Smith, the state's health officer, said in the statement that congenital syphilis—which, left untreated, can lead to poor pregnancy outcomes, birth deformities and delays in development—is “a needless tragedy that can be prevented with good prenatal care and timely and effective treatment.”

Most of the congenital cases were reported in the Central Valley and Los Angeles County. The CDPH has yet to identify a cause for the increase, but noted the disease is often associated with poverty and lack of access to health care.