Why is the number of babies born with syphilis on the rise in San Antonio? That's the question San Antonio Metro Health wants answered.
Health officials say 10 babies have been born with syphilis this year; two have died.That’s got San Antonio on the verge of setting a dubious record.
They are conducting a case study to determine the cause, and in the meantime they are asking its doctors to perform a second STD check on pregnant women later on in their pregnancies.
It’s so bad, Metro Health is assigning case workers to monitor infected pregnant women throughout the term of their pregnancy.
Syphilis has a simple cure: penicillin, administered at the right time, with the right dose. It can keep a newborn from contracting the disease from it's mother.
But health officials say 30 percent of Bexar County mothers don’t receive good prenatal care.
Those that do, get a mandatory STD check at the beginning of the pregnancy.
A newborn with syphilis can turn tragic. Dr. Thomas Schlenker, director of the Metropolitan Health District, wants local doctors to administer another test...just to be sure.
“One out of four of those babies will die right away, either as stillborn or die within the first couple of weeks," said Schlenker. "Those who survive often survive in very, very damaged form. They can be blind or deaf; they can have deformities of the heart.”
San Antonio health workers are amazed at how syphilis is spreading among the youngest mothers. Young teenagers are the norm now in Bexar County, and four out of 10 cases of babies with syphilis came from 16-year-old pregnant mothers.