October 7, 2022

DOH: Providers must test pregnant individuals for syphilis due to rise in cases

The New Mexico Department of Health renewed a Public Health Order this week to mandate that all medical providers test pregnant individuals for syphilis multiple times during the pregnancy.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported a nationwide increase in cases. New Mexico experienced an increase in cases between 2017, when providers found one case, and 2020, when New Mexico had 42 cases of the disease.

Syphilis is easily treatable when detected but can complicate a pregnancy if left untreated.

The New Mexico Department of Health will reintroduce a bill into the 2023 Legislature that would amend the Public Health Act to require providers to test for syphilis in pregnant individuals. A similar bill failed in the 2021 Legislature.

According to best practices, providers should test all pregnant individuals at their first prenatal visit and again during the 28-32 weeks of gestation.

Testing should take place again during the delivery. Providers should also test pregnant individuals at emergency rooms or urgent care centers if the individual has not had a prenatal visit. Individuals who experience a miscarriage and pregnant individuals who are incarcerated who should receive testing.

The CDC reported that, nationally, there were 149 congenital syphilis-related stillbirths and infant deaths in 2020, the most recent year of data. The national congenital syphilis rate in 2020 of 57.3 cases per 100,000 live births represents a 254 percent increase in cases compared to 2016.