Five babies died in Maricopa County from treatable congenital disease


PHOENIX —  Five babies died in the state’s most populous county in 2018 as a result of congenital syphilis, a preventable disease passed from a pregnant mother to her child.

During the past year, 30 babies in Maricopa County were born with the disease, said a release from the county health department.

Maricopa County’s rate of infection is almost 60 percent higher than the national average, and is also above average during the past decade.

“The increase in congenital syphilis rates is directly attributed to an increase in syphilis among both men and women and a failure to screen for syphilis during pregnancy,” said Dr. Rebecca Sunenshine, medical director for Disease Control at Maricopa County Public Health “That is why it is vital that physicians pay attention to the screening requirements; testing at the first pre-natal visit, and again at the third trimester and birth. The only way we will reduce these community rates is with this aggressive screening and treatment.

“Syphilis can be treated and cured with just penicillin, but you have to know it’s there to treat it,” Sunenshine added.

Arizona Revised Statute A.R.S.36-693 requires providers to test all pregnant women for syphilis at the time of the first prenatal care visit.

Due to the high rates of congenital syphilis in Maricopa County, the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (MCDPH) has issued a Public Health Order for providers to test pregnant women for syphilis in the third trimester (28-32 weeks) to ensure effective treatment of both mother and child.

A third syphilis test is also recommended at delivery to identify any missed cases of congenital syphilis.

All reactive syphilis tests must be reported to the health department’s STD Program by the provider.

Pregnant women without access to prenatal care are encouraged to visit the MCDPH STD Clinic at 1645 E Roosevelt St, Phoenix, AZ, 85006 or visit for other low cost testing options.

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