Nevada’s Syphilis Birth Rate Remains Among Highest in the Nation

Nevada's Syphilis Birth Rate Remains Among Highest in the Nation

In the past few years, Nevada has done more to make syphilis tests easier to get, especially for pregnant women. However, health officials say that people still have trouble getting medical care, which is making more babies born with syphilis.

“That is if they are lucky enough to be born,” said Tabby Edelman, a senior specialist at the Southern Nevada Health District who works on disease research and intervention. “Unfortunately, six babies died of syphilis last year, in 2023.”

At the 2024 State of Public Health meeting held by the Southern Nevada Health District on Tuesday, health officials talked about the problems that come up when trying to deal with Clark County’s high syphilis rates and the ongoing efforts to stop drug deaths.

This is when a pregnant person with syphilis gives the infection to their baby. Health officials say that between 2014 and 2023, the number of cases of congenital syphilis rose by 1,567%.

Southern Nevada had 53 cases last year, up from three cases the year before.

Nevada isn’t the only place with this problem. “Reflect a failure of the U.S. health system,” the CDC says the fact that ten times as many children were born with syphilis between 2012 and 2022.

Edelman said, “This can be stopped at all costs.” He also said that because syphilis is caused by bacteria, it can be managed with antibiotics like penicillin. “Yet it still has a big effect on our community.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that in 2020, Nevada had the fourth most kids born with syphilis of any state in the country.

“Nevada was ranked No. 8 in the country in 2022,” said Angel Stachnik, a senior researcher at the health district. Rates and ranks are getting better for us. The number of our cases is still going up. It’s only because other states are getting better that our standing is going down.

As the state started to see an upward trend, lawmakers passed bills to make it easier to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases and make it more necessary to do so.

Assembly Bill 192, which was passed in 2021, says that pregnant women who are admitted to hospitals or other medical facilities must be tested for syphilis in their emergency rooms.

Senate Bill 211 was passed during the same session. It lets hospitals and general care doctors ask people 15 years or older if they would like a STI test.

More people, including women who are pregnant, can now get checked for infections thanks to both bills.

Health officials warned that there are still problems that make it hard for people to get medical care.

Carissa Orozco, a community health nurse with the district, said that 63% of the women who had congenital syphilis in Southern Nevada in 2022 did not get prenatal care.

“Taking care of our homeless population is one of the problems we face,” Orozco said. “It can be hard to keep track of them and get them involved in care.”

Other problems are getting around on public transportation or feeling embarrassed about going to the doctor.

She said, “Our clients don’t want to use our health care system.” “Some people feel bad about coming to our clinics.”

So that people who don’t want to go to the clinic or are afraid that not having insurance will stop them from getting treatment can still get help, the health district is working on “meeting our clients where they are at” by holding more events in the neighborhood.

But a lot of the people who are being seen still don’t have health insurance and have trouble figuring out how to use the medical system.

There are many chances to get tested for STIs that were missed, and Orozco said that basic care providers still don’t understand how to treat syphilis.

Policymakers could do more, like making it easier for more people to get sex education that is proper for their age and based on medical facts.

She said, “I still have patients tell me they got syphilis from a toilet.” “That means we need to teach kids more about health, make sure our school supplies are better, and make sure that sex education is age-appropriate in schools.”

Accidental accidents are down
At the State of the Public Health meeting, health officials pointed out that the number of accidental overdoses went down a little last year.

Mark Mendez, a researcher for the district, said that the rate went from 20.71 per 100,000 people in 2020 to 24.08 per 100,000 people in 2021.

“It’s important to know that even though the number of overdoses is going down, they’re still higher than they were before the pandemic,” he said.

Health officials have made fentanyl test strips and nasal naloxone, which can stop the effects of an opioid overdose, available to the public. They have also warned people about the risk of overdosing on stimulants that have fentanyl added to them.

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