ADH Issues Alert on Outbreak of Syphilis

On September 25, 2018 the Arizona Department of Health Services released a Health Alert Network Notification announcing that there is a statewide outbreak of syphilis in women and babies in Arizona. In response, the Pima County Health Department asks that you review the letter attached (text below) for recommendations aimed at preventing the further increase of syphilis cases among this population. Please share this information with appropriate personnel within your organization.

In response to this outbreak designation and in alignment with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the Pima County Health Department recommends:

  • All pregnant women be screened for syphilis at the first prenatal visit or other encounter with the health care setting (e.g. urgent care, emergency department, primary care).
  • Screening must be repeated once early in the third trimester (i.e., 28‐32 weeks estimated gestational age) and again when presenting for delivery.
  • All pregnant women with a positive screen and a diagnosis of syphilis require prompt antibiotic treatment per established guidelines.

From 2016 to 2017, cases of congenital syphilis in Arizona nearly doubled, and are on track to double again this year (2016 – 16, 2017 – 30, YTD 2018 –36). A similar trend is occurring in Pima County, as recent as 2015, there were no reported cases of congenital syphilis; however, in 2016 there was 1 case, in 2017 there were 3 cases, and thus far in 2018 there have been 3 cases.

These local trends reflect a nationwide increase of cases among women and newborns. From 2016 to 2017 alone, the CDC reports that rates of syphilis increased by 21 percent among women and by 44 percent among newborns.

Please reach out to the PCHD at (520) 724-3947 if you have any questions about the implementation of these recommendations. Our staff can also answer questions about other sexually transmitted infections, provide confidential testing and treatment to partners of positive cases and community outreach and education services.

Syphilis provider letter