Colorado state health officials are reporting an increase in cases of syphilis in newborns, or congenital syphilis.


The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports a total of 18 cases of congenital syphilis from 2013 through October 2018, with an accelerating trend in recent years. In Colorado there was one case in 2013, rising to five in 2017.

“Colorado’s case numbers still are small, but even one case of syphilis in a newborn is too many,” said Dr. Daniel Shodell, deputy director of the Disease Control and Environmental Epidemiology Division at the department.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there is an 80 percent chance an untreated mother with syphilis will pass the disease to her baby. The increase in cases emphasizes the importance of appropriate care for all women during pregnancy.
Pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit, and those at high risk of infection should get tested again early in the third trimester and at delivery.

“At worst, the disease can cause miscarriage, stillbirth or death shortly after birth. It also can cause severe, lifelong health problems. The good news is we can cure syphilis in pregnant women with the right antibiotics, preventing the infection from being passed to infants,” said Shodell.
The state health department is taking a number of actions to address this concern:
  • Prioritizing disease investigation and partner services among women of childbearing age.
  • Following up with all pregnant women with syphilis until shortly after delivery to ensure they and their infants have received appropriate evaluation, treatment and services.
  • Increasing education and outreach to health care providers to further expand screening, testing and follow-up.
Congenital syphilis cases across the country have more than doubled since 2013, rising to 918 in 2017, according to the CDC. 

California sees doubling of syphilis cases in women, tripling of congenital syphilis cases

Congenital syphilis cases up in Alabama, Pregnant women urged to get tested

Arizona reports 45 congenital syphilis cases through November