Congenital syphilis on rise in South Florida

The number of babies born with syphilis in Miami-Dade and Broward counties increased from 17 cases in 2011 to 21 cases in 2012, according to the Florida Department of Health, which announced Thursday the launch of a public awareness campaign and visits to prenatal centers and labor and delivery sites in both counties to review screening and testing protocols with medical staff.

Broward faces the greatest challenge, according to health department officials, with 15 cases of congenital syphilis reported in 2012. That number, though, is far less than the 103 babies born in Broward with the disease in 1990.

During that time, public health officials launched a public awareness and education effort to combat the sexually transmitted disease (STD), which can be passed from mother to baby prior to birth. Antibiotics can treat and cure the disease in pregnant women, preventing transmission.

This year, Broward health officials said they plan to combat the rise in congenital syphilis by increasing the number specialists who communicate with those diagnosed or exposed to an STD in order to ensure treatment.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, syphilis is one of the least common STDs among pregnant women, with less than 1,000 cases reported nationwide each year.

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