The Louisiana Department of Health received a $550,000 grant from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen its congenital syphilis activities and initiatives. The grant will support statewide activities, with targeted attention in the Baton Rouge and Shreveport areas as these areas have especially high rates of congenital syphilis.
This priority funding will enhance current STD activities and bolster congenital syphilis control efforts.
Highly preventable, congenital syphilis has become a problem that requires awareness attention, and action. Data from the most recent STD Surveillance Report found that the number of congenital syphilis cases spiked for the fourth year in a row.
From 2015-2016 alone, there were a total of 628 cases -- a rise of nearly 30 percent over the previous year.
DeAnn Gruber, director of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases for the state Department of Health, said the funding will address screening and treating pregnant women for STDs.
“Syphilis in pregnant women can cause miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths or death of newborns. Without adequate prenatal treatment, historical data indicates up to 40 percent of babies born to women with untreated syphilis may be stillborn or die from the infection as a newborn,” she said.
Gruber added that for babies who live after contracting syphilis, they can have deformed bones, skin rashes, severe anemia, jaundice, enlarged livers and spleens, seizures, development delays, and other neurologic problems.
“These outcomes are a sadness that we simply cannot allow. The effects of congenital syphilis ripple through homes, families and communities – it can alter the course of someone’s entire life and create many challenges for families,” she added.
The grant will allow the state Department of Health’s STD/HIV program to conduct focused efforts on the following activities:
In total, the CDC awarded a total of $4 million to public health agencies in California, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, and Texas. These 15-months awards ranged from $250,000 to $700,000.
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