MDH: congenital syphilis cases highest in 40 years

State health officials are warning the public about 29 cases of congenital syphilis (including three stillbirths) that were reported in 2023, the highest number in “at least 40 years,” according to the Minnesota Department of Health (MDH).

Data shared shows the increase in cases across Minnesota and the number of cases per county.

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that can have serious complications when left untreated. Congenital syphilis happens when a pregnant person passes their syphilis infection to their fetus during pregnancy. This can cause miscarriages, stillbirths, premature birth, as well as brain and nerve problems, including blindness and deafness.

Health officials are now recommending syphilis screenings for all sexually active people.

The MDH said it is also updating its screening guidelines for healthcare providers. It recommends that pregnant people be screened at least three times during pregnancy, including at the first prenatal encounter (ideally during the first trimester), around 28 weeks of pregnancy and at delivery.

RELATED: 2022 STD data shows many slight declines but bigger syphilis increase

The chair of the Minnesota Section of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) shared the following statement on the increase:

“Obstetrician-gynecologists will continue to be committed to ensuring that patients are screened for congenital syphilis so that they have the opportunity to be appropriately treated. We support the updated MDH recommendations, which are in response to the increase in syphilis. The CDC recommends additional screening in areas that have high rates of syphilis, and the CDC treatment guidelines are endorsed by ACOG. Congenital syphilis can cause serious health problems for infants, but it is preventable with a simple blood test and treatment.”

MDH said it will work with providers and partners to share information about testing and treatment directly with impacted communities.

CLICK HERE for more data on STDs in Minnesota.