For example, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that 3,700 babies will be born with congenital syphilis in 2022, a 32% increase in one year.
The number of stillbirths or newborn deaths attributed to the disease was 282, a 16-fold increase from 2012, according to the CDC.
In 2011, Quebec recorded its first case of congenital syphilis in a decade, according to data analyzed by an expert at the Montreal Children’s Hospital.
Six cases were recorded in 2021, the highest number since the Notifiable Diseases Register was introduced in 1990. A record fourteen cases of congenital syphilis were recorded in 2022.
“Syphilis is an old disease that has never completely disappeared,” explains Dr. Christos Karatzios, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the Montreal Children’s Hospital, said this increase in the number of cases.
“There have always been cases in certain risk groups. The number of sexually transmitted infections is also increasing worldwide. And the pandemic made it harder to see a doctor if there was a problem.”
Quebec still has one of the lowest prevalence rates in Canada, he pointed out.
A document released by Health Canada in December 2022 shows that the number of congenital syphilis cases across the country increased from seven in 2017 to 96 in 2021. However, the European Union reports a slight improvement in the situation in 2020 and 2021 compared to 2019, mainly due to a decrease in the number of infections in Bulgaria and Portugal.
A syphilis infection could have catastrophic consequences for the baby and even death, warned Dr. Karatzios.
“The baby may be blind, it may have post-syphilis meningitis, it may be deaf, it may affect the bones, especially the bones of the legs, it may have dental malformations,” he listed. (Syphilis) can also destroy the bone between the two nostrils and cause the nose to collapse.”
Therefore, he continues, it is crucial that primary care physicians, as well as obstetricians and gynecologists, do not miss an opportunity to identify women infected with syphilis, even though the rarity of the disease may result in their unfamiliarity with the disease. .
We should also not lose sight of the fact that the disease affects more disadvantaged populations who may find it more difficult to access health care, said Dr. Karatzios – the same applies to some arriving migrants. We can find countries where screening and care are not comparable here.
In several of the cases registered in Quebec between 2016 and 2019, a document from the Public Health Agency of Canada revealed that the mother had received inadequate care during her pregnancy, which prevented detection of the disease or led to delayed screening.
“It is an emerging disease,” warned Dr. Karatzios.
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