By NewsDesk  @infectiousdiseasenews

New Mexico state health officials issued a Public Health Order Friday concerning syphilis testing of pregnant women in light of an increase in congenital syphilis in the state in recent years.


According to the order issued by Kathyleen M. Kunkel, Cabinet Secretary of the New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), New Mexico currently had the eighth highest rate of congenital syphilis cases in the United States with 10 cases reported to NMDOH, with two of those cases ending in death. That number, as of December 30th of last year, has risen to 23 cases.

This compares  to an average of two cases reported annually from 2012 and 2017.

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The order states all medical practitioners shall perform the following upon consent of the patient:

a. Syphilis testing for all pregnant women in their 1st trimester (or initial prenatal visit) and 3rd trimester (28-32 weeks gestational age).
b. Syphilis testing for all pregnant women again at delivery.
c. Syphilis testing for all pregnant women who present to an urgent care center or an emergency room if the patient has not received prior prenatal care.
d. Syphilis testing of any woman with an intrauterine fetal demise at any gestational age.
e. Syphilis testing for all pregnant women at correctional facilities, including prisons, jails, and juvenile detention centers, at the intervals and events above.

“Congenital syphilis is preventable with screening and treatment of pregnant women found to have syphilis,” said NMDOH Cabinet Secretary Kathy Kunkel. “This order will assure medical practitioners, with patient consent, will make testing for syphilis part of the standard pre-natal care provided to their patients.”

Congenital syphilis is an infectious disease transmitted by an infected mother to her baby in the womb. Adults transmit syphilis through sexual contact but mothers can transmit the infection to their baby in the womb or through the birthing process. The disease can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, death shortly after birth, prematurity and birth defects. A woman can be treated and cured for syphilis during pregnancy, but it is important for women to be tested in time for treatment to be effective. Babies who test positive for syphilis at birth must be treated immediately to prevent serious health issues.