The same week that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the total combined cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis in 2015 reached the highest number ever, Brazil reported significant increases in adult and congenital syphilis, according to a Agencia EFE report (computer translated).

Public domain image/Deyvid Aleksandr Raffo Setti
Public domain image/Deyvid Aleksandr Raffo Setti

Syphilis cases in adults increased by 32.7% between 2014 and 2015, while newborn cases are up by 19% and in fetuses it increased by 20.9%, according to data from the latest Epidemiological Bulletin.

A Quartz report this summer described the public health issue of pregnant women infected with syphilis as follows:

In 2016, the government forecasts 41,762 new syphilis infections among pregnant women—49 times higher than that reported a decade ago. And those numbers might even be underselling the problem; Brazilian health authorities estimate half of all cases go unreported. The sexually transmitted infection is beginning to spread at epidemic rates thanks to a troubling rise in unprotected sex, and has been exacerbated by shortages of the one medication that can stop syphilis in its tracks.

The dramatic increases in syphilis has prompted Brazilian health officials to commit to expanding coverage for early diagnosis and to try and curb the disease in newborns and fetuses.

The government plans to launch eight million rapid screening tests and actions to stimulate the realization of tests for pregnant women who are in the first trimester.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that is spread by direct, skin to skin contact during unprotected sex. Pregnant women who are infected can transmit it to their unborn babies.