DOH: Providers must test pregnant people for syphilis due to rising cases

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The New Mexico Department of Health and Human Services this week renewed a public health order to require all medical providers to test pregnant individuals for syphilis multiple times during pregnancy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a nationwide spike in cases. New Mexico saw a spike in cases between 2017, when vendors found one case, and 2020, when New Mexico had 42 cases of the disease.

Syphilis is easily treatable when detected, but can make pregnancy difficult if left untreated.

The New Mexico Department of Health will again introduce a bill into the 2023 Legislature that would amend the Public Health Act to require providers to test pregnant individuals for syphilis. A similar bill failed in the 2021 legislature.

In accordance with best practice, providers should test all pregnant individuals at their first prenatal visit and again during 28-32 weeks of gestation.

The check should be repeated during delivery. Providers should also test pregnant people in emergency rooms or emergency care centers if the person has not had a prenatal visit. People who are suffering a miscarriage and pregnant people who are incarcerated and should get tested.

The CDC reported that in 2020, the most recent year of the data, there were 149 congenital syphilis-related stillbirths and infant deaths nationwide. The national congenital syphilis rate in 2020 of 57.3 cases per 100,000 live births represents a 254 percent increase in cases compared to 2016.

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