Spike in STD cases has Houston officials sounding the alarm

Houston officials are sounding the alarm over an STD spreading in the city and Harris County as they rush to rein in the contagion while the area experiences a nine-fold rise in congenital syphilis with a 128% increase in cases among women.

According to Fox News, statistics indicate that there has been a massive jump in infections. They are up 57%, from 1,845 in 2019 to 2,905 in 2022.

Especially worrying is the rise among women, particularly those who are pregnant. Cases totaled 674 last year for women. That is way up from 295 in 2019.

In 2016, there were 16 cases of congenital syphilis in Houston. In 2021, there were 151 cases. This has evidently been a growing problem in the Texas city for some time.

(Video Credit: KHOU 11)

According to the Centers for Disease Control, syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease with common symptoms that include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue. Any sexually active person can contract syphilis by having direct contact with a syphilis sore.

The Houston Health Department stated on Thursday that it would be deploying a rapid outreach response to address the outbreak, including increasing screening opportunities, targeting hotspots, and mobilizing community partners to curb new infections.

“It is crucial for pregnant women to seek prenatal care and syphilis testing to protect themselves from an infection that could result in the deaths of their babies,” Marlene McNeese Ward, deputy assistant director in the department’s Bureau of HIV/STI and Viral Hepatitis Prevention, commented via a statement. “A pregnant woman needs to get tested for syphilis three times during her pregnancy.”

The spread of syphilis is so serious that the Houston Health Department is waiving all clinical fees for sexually transmitted infections at health centers and they are expanding the use of its HIV/STD mobile clinic.

Fox News reported, “It is also working with medical providers and collaborating with community-based partners to increase awareness of the outbreak and enhance testing and treatment. Testing is recommended three times: at a woman’s first prenatal visit, during the third trimester, and at delivery. Untreated syphilis during pregnancy can result in a stillbirth or a baby’s death soon after birth.”

Syphilis presents itself initially with sores. They may go away and the person might think the infection has as well but that is not the case. Those infected are at increased risk of HIV infection due to the painless sore that develops at the site of sexual contact during the disease’s first stage.

The STD is easily treatable with antibiotics. If untreated, it reaches the second stage where one or more areas of skin break into a rash or sores. The signs of the disease can go unnoticed or be misinterpreted.

Left untreated, syphilis could damage your brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones, and joints and eventually result in death.

“The department recommends syphilis testing for pregnant women at their initial prenatal visit, third trimester, and delivery; those who have had unprotected sex, people with multiple sex partners; men with anonymous sex partners; and people recently diagnosed with any other sexually transmitted disease,” according to Fox News.

It is unknown if the outbreak is somehow connected to the huge influx of illegal immigrants that have been flooding across the border into Texas cities such as Houston.

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