Public Health fighting rise in congenital syphilis with award-winning program

A graphic of a doctor pregnant patient facing each other with city buildings in the background.

Over the last five years, California has seen a dramatic increase in syphilis and congenital syphilis cases. Between 2017 and 2020, San Bernardino County experienced a 135% increase in congenital syphilis and a 54% increase in syphilis prompting an intensive response from the Department of Public Health.

Public Health staff are using innovative ways to improve the prevention and treatment of syphilis and congenital syphilis in the county and winning an Achievement Award for their efforts from the National Association of Counties (NACo) in 2022. One method is the Manifest Medex Notify tool, which sends real-time notifications of patients with syphilis who visit hospitals and emergency departments in the county. This tool has been successful in improving the coordination of testing and treatment at delivery.

As of December 2022, approximately 52 pregnant patients have had encounters at a hospital or emergency department in which DPH has been able to provide coordinated care for those who may have otherwise not received syphilis treatment.

The County’s Department of Public Heath staff receive requests from other counties and the state’s Department of Public Health and external partners to share best practices. The department is also re-launching the mobile clinic to increase access to testing and treatment for syphilis and other sexually transmitted infections in the county.

Beyond these innovative approaches, Public Health staff continues to engage in comprehensive provider outreach and education, case management of pregnant patients diagnosed with syphilis and cultivates partnerships with internal and external stakeholders with a goal of reducing the rates of syphilis and congenital syphilis in the county.

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