- 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
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 -- a vast agricultural and mostly low-income swath of California -- has seen an unprecedented spike in congenital syphilis
over the last few years. It's part of an overall rise in syphilis
and other sexually transmitted diseases across California and the nation.