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Metro Health: 18 babies born in 2012 with congenital syphilis

Director urges pregnant women to be tested

SAN ANTONIO - After less than a dozen cases of congenital cases each year, the Metropolitan Health District reports 18 babies were born with syphilis in 2012.

Dr. Thomas Schlenker, Metro Health director, said the number is “the worst that’s ever happened, as far as I know.”

Schlenker delivered the disturbing news Wednesday as part of the agency’s mid-year report to a crowded room of health professionals and community groups at the University of the Incarnate Word’s Bowden Eye Care and Health Center  in the 2500 block of East Commerce.

He said although the needed blood tests are not part of the usual pre-natal regimen, “Every pregnant woman in San Antonio needs to be tested for syphilis three times.

Schlenker said the third trimester in the sixth or seventh month of the pregnancy, is key.

If diagnosed, Schlenker said the treatment is simple.

“A shot of penicillin, then the baby will be born healthy,” he said.

Schlenker said otherwise, if not treated, the disease could become a lifelong condition.

He said so far this year, seven infant cases of congenital syphilis have been reported.

“It’s a little bit better than last year, but it’s not where we want to be,” Schlenker said.

The Metro Health director said condoms remain the best protection for adults, even if they know and trust their partner.

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