EYEWITNESS NEWS (WBRE/WYOU) — The Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) is urging soon-to-be mothers to get tested for syphilis to reverse the recent trend of babies being born with the disease.

Acting Secretary of Health and Pennsylvania Physician General Dr. Denise Johnson says she is strongly encouraging pregnant people to seek prenatal care and to get tested for syphilis during their pregnancy to ensure the baby isn’t born with it.

The DOH says Congenital syphilis is a disease that occurs when a pregnant person with syphilis passes the infection onto the baby during pregnancy. Which in turn can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature births, low birth weight, or death shortly after birth.

“Congenital syphilis can be a painful disease that is dangerous for the overall health of babies. It also is preventable. We need to educate pregnant people about the importance of testing for syphilis throughout the pregnancy in order to stop children from being born with the disease and to reduce the chance of stillbirths,” said Dr. Johnson.

The DOH says it’s focusing on educating pregnant women and other women at reproductive age, while also reminding healthcare professionals about the importance of testing pregnant patients for syphilis.

“Pregnant patients need to understand that syphilis can be treated and cured with antibiotics. If anyone tests positive for syphilis during pregnancy, they should seek treatment right away. We hope that by openly talking about this issue, we can reduce the stigma surrounding syphilis testing, and ultimately, increase the number of healthy childbirths across the state,” Dr. Johnson added.

Accoridng to the DOH, so far in 2022, there have been 12 confirmed cases of births with congenital syphilis in Pennsylvania, excluding Philadelphia, along with two stillbirths. Making it the highest level of cases since 1990.

Watch: Press Conference on the rise of syphilis cases during pregnancy

Also, the DOH says it’s seen a disturbing trend over the past five years with 39 confirmed cases of congenital syphilis (excluding Philadelphia) since 2018, compared to six confirmed cases of the disease over the previous five years.

Over the last 10 years the number of early syphilis cases of women of reproductive age has jumped exponentially from 29 cases in 2010, to 211 cases in 2021, the DOH says.

The DOH recommends all healthcare providers test all pregnant patients for syphilis at the first prenatal visit, during the third trimester, and at delivery. Healthcare providers can find additional information by calling the DOH’s Sexually Transmitted Disease (STD) Program at 717-787-3981.

Additional information about congenital syphilis during pregnancy, testing, and treatment can be found online at the DOH’s website.