There is a new epidemic in Texas that doesn't involve COVID-19. The thing is, this epidemic is very much preventable and is only contracted through sexual intercourse. What makes this whole thing even more egregious is that the disease is passed on to their babies and, in some cases, even killing those babies. I am talking about syphilis, a sexually transmitted disease that many thought was dead but is making a disturbing comeback in Texas.

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Rise of Syphilis Cases in Texas

In 2022, syphilis cases rose by 22% in Texas. If you're a numbers person, that's 21,476 cases in 2020 to 25,991 in 2022. In 2018, the reported cases was half that number. What makes those numbers even more disturbing is that 950 of those cases were reported in newborns in 2022. In the United States in 2022, 2,855 cases were reported. So a third of the nation's reported syphilis cases in newborns came from Texas in 2022. That is sad.

People think that syphilis is gone. Syphilis has become an epidemic. - Dr. Irene Stafford, McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston

Why is this happening?

So why is there such a drastic increase in syphilis cases in Texas? For one, less unprotected sex but another, according to McGovern Medical School in Houston, is that people seem to think that syphilis is not around anymore. There has been no cure or eradication of syphilis or the clap or gonorrhea or whatever else you want to call it. It's still around and can be spread if someone continues to have unprotected sex with multiple partners (

It's Even Killing Babies

As shown above, newborns are coming into the world already infected with syphilis. This is known as congenital syphilis and can kill a newborn in 40% of cases. Congenital syphilis can also cause many different birth defects if the newborn is able to live.

Shortage of Penicillin

The steady rise in syphilis has caused a shortage in the most effective treatment for syphilis, penicillin. If a pregnant woman who has syphilis gets a treatment of penicillin, the risk of her newborn's death drops to just 2% if given at least 30 days before birth. The shortage may last until next summer.

So what can be done to curtail this increase in infections?

Have less unprotected sex with multiple partners is the best option. Having said that, syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease that a condom cannot prevent. Sadly, men are using them less and less today. 75% of men used them in 2011 while only 42% in 2021.

Bottom Line

Stop having sex all willy nilly. If that can't be helped, make sure that a condom is used. It won't stop a person from getting syphilis but it can somewhat reduce the risk of catching syphilis and greatly reduce the risk of catching any of the many other STDs that are out there. If a woman does contract syphilis and becomes pregnant, seek treatment as soon as possible to prevent the possibility of death for the newborn.

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