Congenital syphilis is an infection transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy and/or delivery caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Congenital syphilis can cause severe illness in babies including premature birth, low birth weight, birth defects, blindness, and hearing loss. It can also lead to stillbirth and infant death. Tests and treatment for pregnant women are readily available.
Over the last several years, California has experienced a steep increase in syphilis among women and congenital syphilis (CS). From 2012 to 2017, the annual number of reported early syphilis cases among women of childbearing age increased by over 600%, from 207 to 1,460 cases. This was accompanied by over a 700% increase in the number of reported CS cases, from 33 to 278 cases, and an increase in syphilitic stillbirths, from one in 2012 to 30 in 2017. In 2017, most female early syphilis cases and congenital syphilis cases in California were reported from the Central Valley; however, an increasing number of counties throughout California are reporting their first CS case in years. Most women who gave birth to babies with congenital syphilis received prenatal care late in pregnancy or not at all.