by Mary Tuma
The San Antonio Metropolitan Health District recently announced the syphilis rates in the Alamo City are growing for the ninth consecutive year. The sexually (or congenitally) transmitted disease can cause, “long-term complications and/or death if not treated correctly,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Described by the health district as an “epidemic” the total number of cases increased 15.2 percent in 2013, with 1,070 reported cases compared to 929 cases in 2012, according to preliminary data.
Although the number of Bexar County congenital syphilis cases in 2013 fell from 18 to 17, the rate remains “alarmingly high”— it’s still eight times higher than the 2012 national average and is the highest rate among the large urban areas in the state, the district found. Hispanic and African-American women made up 94 percent these women in the past two years.
SA babies born with the disease, passed from the infected mother, could see “incurable disabilities” such as blindness, seizures and severe learning disabilities, they note. The health district’s case management program prevented 34 cases of congenital syphilis in 2013 by working with clients who had contracted the disease.
“Only a deeply committed collaboration between Metro Health and local health care practitioners can halt this terrible plague,” said Dr. Thomas Schlenker, director of Metro Health said in a release about the epidemic.
The City health district plans to take several steps to reduce the rate, like mobile screenings, school-based instruction and case management for those who walk in the Metro Health STD Clinic. They’re also asking all 12 birthing hospitals to record what proportion of women who gave birth in 2013 were tested for the STD during their third trimester.