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Published on Monday, October 7, 2019

City of San Antonio Stresses the Importance of Prenatal Care for Timely Testing and Treatment of Syphilis

CONTACT: Michelle Vigil, O: (210) 207-8172


SAN ANTONIO (Oct. 7, 2019) - City of San Antonio Metropolitan Health District (Metro Health) reminds health care professionals about the new law increasing syphilis testing during pregnancy and urges all pregnant women to seek prenatal care early in their pregnancy. Texas law now mandates three syphilis tests be completed on all pregnant women during each pregnancy: at the first prenatal exam, during the third trimester, and at delivery. This new requirement comes as a sharp increase in the number of syphilis infections passed from mother to child, have been seen statewide.


In Bexar County, the number of congenital syphilis cases reported to Metro Health increased 258% between 2017 (17 cases) and 2018 (61 cases). This is due in large part to a change in the case definition. The total number of congenital syphilis cases in 2018 includes all babies born to women who have ever had syphilis and that had no proof of treatment. In past years, only women with a syphilis diagnosis during the current pregnancy and no or inadequate treatment were reported. Had the case definition not changed, Bexar County would have seen a 47% increase between 2017 (17 cases) and 2018 (25 cases).


Untreated syphilis during pregnancy can result in devastating health outcomes for the baby, including stillbirth or perinatal death, but congenital syphilis can be prevented by timely treatment of maternal syphilis. A lack of or delayed prenatal care remains a significant factor in the growing number of congenital syphilis cases, and we encourage women to seek prenatal care as early in their pregnancy as possible. “To address this problem in San Antonio, health professionals must test women for syphilis at the first prenatal visit, during the third trimester and at delivery as required by law without fail. Even one case is one too many given the effective testing and treatment options available” said Dr. Anita K. Kurian, Assistant Director of Communicable Diseases.


Health care providers are asked to provide and document adequate syphilis treatment based on stage of disease and report that treatment to Metro Health so that babies of mothers who received treatment are not mistakenly counted as cases.


Metro Health has taken the following steps to detect and reduce congenital syphilis cases in Bexar County:
  • Hired a congenital syphilis coordinator to lead efforts to better understand the causes of maternal and fetal infections.
  • Created a community-based team to review congenital syphilis cases to identify systemic barriers to care and ways to reduce those barriers.
  • Issued a health advisory to health professionals with syphilis testing and treatment guidance.
  • Follow up on pregnant women with a previous syphilis infection who don’t have a record of receiving adequate treatment.


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Categories: City News, Health