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:
- Improving congenital syphilis case data college, including maternal and fetal epidemiologic and clinical risk factor data.
- Improving collection of pregnancy status for all cases of syphilis among women of reproductive age
- Strengthening congenital syphilis morbidity and mortality case review boards at the local and state level to help identify causes of congenital syphilis and develop interventions to address the causes.
- Improving methods to match vital statistics birth and mortality data with syphilis surveillance data to review syphilis testing practices among stillbirths, identify missed cases of syphilis-related stillbirth, and strengthen stillbirth case report data.
- Strengthening partnerships with local health care providers, community organizations, state, and local Title V maternal and child health programs, Medicaid programs, and health care organizations.
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.