The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) has received reports showing multiple clusters of people with syphilis across the state, most recently in Stark and Cass Counties.
The increase in reports included infections among pregnant women, which increases the risk for syphilis among newborn infants, a condition called congenital syphilis that could result in malformations or stillbirth.
So far this year, there have been 72 confirmed reports of people with syphilis in North Dakota—25 of the cases have been women. Of those women, seven have been pregnant.
“Many of these infections among women were found during a routine pregnancy screening,” said epidemiologist Shari Renton. “We are urging women who are pregnant to seek prenatal care and receive syphilis testing. Congenital syphilis can be prevented through prompt treatment.”
Syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease (STD), continues to be a major health threat in the United States and can be transmitted through unprotected oral, anal and vaginal sex. If left untreated, it can lead to blindness, brain damage, heart problems and even death.
A growing risk factor for these infections is illicit drug use, primarily methamphetamine, which can promote risky sexual behavior.