Billboard along Lafayette raises questions about Syphilis in newborns

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A billboard placed along Lafayette as you head into downtown Fort Wayne is calling attention to Syphilis and its impact on newborns.

The billboard reads ‘Syphilis is on the rise in Newborns’. Health officials say this statement is true nationwide, but say they haven’t seen any cases in Allen County yet. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that is initially marked by painless bumps or a rash. According to the Indiana State Department of Health says between 2015 and 2018 there was an over 25% increase in Syphilis cases across the state. The Centers for Disease Control says STDs reached an all-time high in 2018 and those numbers continue to rise. The concern is for those mothers who are expecting, to pass it along to their unborn children, which is why it’s important that expectant mothers are tested.

“Every woman needs to be tested for syphilis during the course of their pregnancy. We have to have that result for every mom for every baby,” says Dr. James Cameron, a member of the Allen County Board of Health, “If not then we have to test the baby for it, and if the baby comes back with anything concerning then obviously we have to go back and screen the mom.”

Risks include the baby not making it to term or being stillborn, however for those that are born with syphilis the potential health effects continue.

“The biggest concern I would say would be the potential impact for missing it and then the long term injury to the brain. There is also an impact on the immune system, impact on the blood system, impact on the bones,” explains Dr. Cameron, “So many impacts throughout the body as a whole but also that the baby can become infectious because all the secretions that are out of the baby all have the potential for being infectious.”

Safe sex practices such as wearing a condom are the best way to prevent the spreading of Syphilis.

You can find the Indiana State Department of Health STD website here and the CDC information here.

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