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Surge in Syphilis Cases Prompts Colorado Public Health Order

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (Credits: NPR)

Colorado Governor Jared Polis (D) has announced a statewide public health order to address the alarming surge in syphilis cases, particularly among pregnant women and babies. The initiative aims to provide testing and treatment for expectant mothers and their infants, as congenital syphilis has seen a dramatic increase over the past few years.

Governor Polis emphasized that syphilis is treatable with a course of penicillin, but the real concern lies with newborns, who face a huge fatality rate if born to mothers with untreated syphilis.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 40% of babies with untreated congenital syphilis may be stillborn or die from the infection.

Governor Jared Polis (Credits: ABC News)

Colorado has seen a sevenfold increase in infections over the past five years, with 1,084 cases in 2018 and 3,266 cases in 2023. State Epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy has declared a statewide congenital syphilis epidemic due to the consistent rise in cases across the state.

To combat this issue, Colorado will collaborate with various state departments, including Corrections, Public Health and Environment, and Public Safety, to minimize cases in correctional facilities. The state will also ensure that syphilis testing is covered without co-pays for most insured Coloradans, including those with Medicaid.

The state will increase education about the importance of testing and treatment for syphilis, as it is possible to have the disease without knowing it. This education will focus on raising awareness about the severity of congenital syphilis and the need for expectant mothers to receive testing and treatment to prevent passing the infection to their babies.

Colorado’s Jared Polis (Credits: Colorado Public Radio)

The state’s efforts will also include working with healthcare providers to ensure that they are aware of the risks of congenital syphilis and are providing adequate testing and treatment to their patients.

Additionally, the state will provide resources and support to local health departments and community organizations to help them address the epidemic. By taking a comprehensive approach to addressing congenital syphilis, Colorado aims to reduce the number of cases and prevent further harm to newborns and their families.

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