The CDC's director of STD prevention says that "not long ago" syphilis was close to elimination. But some troubling new statistics show that a lot of ground has been lost in the fight against STDs, and it's affecting some of the most vulnerable members of society. According to a new CDC report, 918 babies were born with syphilis in the US in 2017, the Guardian reports. That's a 20-year high. For context, there were 628 cases of syphilis in infants in 2016. In 2013, there were 362. Of the 2017 cases, 77 resulted in stillbirths or newborn deaths, per USA Today. Western and southern states had the most cases of congenital syphilis in 2017, per the report, with Louisiana having the highest rate.
"It's just a systematic public health failure. It's shocking that this has come roaring back in the United States," David Harvey of the National Coalition of STD Directors tells the Guardian. Syphilis is easily treated with antibiotics, and women can be treated while they are pregnant to prevent the disease from being passed on to their child. But, per the Guardian, some women do not get tested, and others contract the disease while pregnant after testing negative. In some cases, there is a connection to drug use. Overall, there were 30,644 syphilis diagnoses in the US in 2017—up 76% from the year before. (Read more STD stories.)