Record STD rates drive syphilis in newborns

Vyn Wayne, a nurse practitioner at Clinica Sierra Vista in Bakersfield, California, informs all her pregnant patients about syphilis risk.

Story highlights

  • Many mothers give birth unaware they have syphilis or that they could pass it to their baby
  • The rate of syphilis among women increased 27 percent from 2014 to 2015

Bakersfield, CaliforniaNeonatologist Gurvir Khurana had only read about it in textbooks. Seeing it in real life has been a shock: baby after baby born severely anemic, lungs filled with fluid, bodies covered with rashes.

Some only lived minutes; others died within days or weeks.
    The cause: congenital syphilis.
      They are all born to mothers with syphilis. Many of the mothers arrive at the hospital to give birth never having had prenatal care, unaware they have the disease -- let alone that they could pass it along to their unborn babies. The infants who survive carry an elevated risk of long-term health problems.
      "It's been an absolute explosion," said Khurana, who works at four hospitals in California's Central Valley. "It's just spreading very, very quickly. Kern County has a huge public health problem on its hands."
      The Central Valley