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What is congenital syphilis?

Congenital syphilis is the term for a baby born infected with syphilis. The disease is passed to the unborn child from a mother who is also infected with the disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congenital syphilis cases increased by a large 38 percent between the 2012 and 2014. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that a mother can acquire at any time during pregnancy from oral, vaginal, or anal sex. Congenital syphilis can lead to premature birth, stillbirth, or death after birth in some affected infants.

An infant with congenital syphilis may initially appear normal, but will develop devastating complications over time that affect the brain, skin, teeth, and bones. Treating the mother before delivery can greatly decrease the chances that her child will be born with congenital syphilis. All pregnant women should be screened at least once during their pregnancy for syphilis and then treated, if needed.

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