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Babies Die as Congenital Syphilis Continues a Decade-Long Surge Across the US

"Dr. Eric McGrath, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, said that he’d seen several newborns in recent years whose mothers had been treated for syphilis but then were reexposed during pregnancy by partners who hadn’t been treated.

Treating a newborn baby for syphilis isn’t trivial. Penicillin carries little risk, but delivering it to a baby often involves a lumbar puncture and other painful procedures. And treatment typically means keeping the baby in the hospital for 10 days, interrupting an important time for family bonding.

McGrath has seen a couple of babies in his career who weren’t diagnosed or treated at birth and later came to him with full-blown syphilis complications, including full-body rashes and inflamed livers. It was an awful experience he doesn’t want to repeat. The preferred course, he said, is to spare the baby the ordeal and treat parents early in the pregnancy."

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