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Rise of syphilis cases causes St. Louis City and County to urge testing

St. Louis City and County officials ask residents to test for syphilis due to an increase of cases in Missouri.
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ST. LOUIS — An increase in syphilis in the state of Missouri, including congenital syphilis is causing concern in St. Louis City and County. Residents are asked to get tested.

Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services noted that from 2015 to 2021 there was a sharp increase of 259% in syphilis cases in Missouri. Congenital syphilis cases in 2021 were at their highest in Missouri since 1994, according to a news release.

Sixty-nine cases of early syphilis in St. Louis County have been diagnosed in women under 40 years of age in 2021, an increase of 23% from 2020. In the City of St. Louis, there were 58 cases of early syphilis in women under 40 This was an increase of 287%, compared to 15 cases in 2017. 

Syphilis rates in St. Louis County were already up 176% among women between 2016 and 2020. The CDC rang the alarm bells in an April report.

Congenital syphilis is a concern due to the rising cases in the area. Congenital syphilis passes from mother to baby during pregnancy or birth, causing health issues. Congenital syphilis in babies is completely preventable. Pregnant people should be screened during pregnancy for syphilis.

“A single case of congenital syphilis is heartbreaking because it is completely preventable,” said Dr. Faisal Khan, Acting Director of the Saint Louis County Department of Public Health. “Given the high rates of syphilis in the Saint Louis region, I urge all those who are pregnant considering pregnancy to get themselves and their partners tested immediately.”

Get tested if you are sexually active, or are considering pregnancy. Many locations across St. Louis offer free or low-cost testing and treatment for syphilis. Screening and testing can be found at North Central Community Health Center and the Health Stop Testing and Referral Center

Local public health departments are also taking action by examining cases of congenital syphilis for preventative measures in the future. They are trying to get the word out to people at higher risk of the disease, especially young people.

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