SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (WCIA) — The Illinois Department of Public Health has created a new helpline for healthcare providers to advise them on how to treat the rise of congenital syphilis.
The department announced the new Perinatal Syphilis Warmline is 1-800-439-4079. Officials say all calls to the warmline will be answered within a business day.
“The best way to protect Illinois’s babies from congenital syphilis is for pregnant people to get tested and treated for sexually transmitted infections before birth,” IDPH Director Dr. Sameer Vohra said. “These rising rates of congenital syphilis are alarming, and IDPH is responding with new education tools and support services to help providers who care for those who are pregnant and their newborns.”
Rates of congenital syphilis have nearly tripled in the state since 2020, with 29 cases in 2020 and 84 cases in 2022. Nationwide, syphilis infections for all people have skyrocketed by 459% since 2000.
Syphilis is caused by the bacteria Treponema pallidum and is transmitted through sexual contact. Congenital syphilis can cause a miscarriage, premature delivery, or serious complications for the newborn like a low birth weight, cataracts, seizures, or deafness.
Illinois law requires all pre-natal care providers to test for syphilis in pregnant people at the first visit as well as within the third trimester.
Officials also note there is currently a shortage of bicillin, the only medication that treats syphilis in pregnant people. Health officials recommend prescribing non-pregnant people with syphilis with a different antibiotic.