Barbados health officials are reporting an increase in syphilis in pregnant women in recent years.
The health ministry is now seeing an abnormally high rate of syphilis in pregnant women and, by extension, an increase in the number of babies born at risk for congenital syphilis.
Statistics show a rise from the average one or two cases a year of syphilis in pregnant women to 17 in 2016. According to the Ministry official, preliminary analyses from 2017 show a similarly high rate.
Dr. Anton Best, Senior Medical Officer of Health with responsibility for the HIV/STI Programme said that effective prevention and detection of congenital syphilis depended on the identification of the STI in pregnant women. He noted that the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ guidelines made it clear that all pregnant women should be offered a screening test for syphilis at booking and at 28 weeks’ gestation.
“The fetus is at risk of contracting syphilis when the mother is in the early stages of infection, but the disease can be passed at any point during pregnancy, even during delivery, if the child has not already contracted it,” he explained.
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He added: “To prevent congenital syphilis, it is imperative that all pregnant women be screened for syphilis during pregnancy. And for those that are found to have syphilis, prompt therapy with penicillin should be administered.”
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