Colorado health officials hope to fight the syphilis epidemic

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Colorado’s syphilis epidemic is affecting unborn babies, and a recently instated public health order aims to increase access to testing and treatments.
Between 2018 and 2023, congenital syphilis cases increased more than seven times in Colorado, according to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
So far in 2024, there have been at least 25 reported congenital syphilis cases, including five stillbirths and two neonatal deaths.
On April 18, a congenital syphilis epidemic was declared in Colorado.
The public health order that I am issuing will help us catch more of these cases prior to birth.”
As per the public health order, syphilis testing is covered without co-pays for Coloradans with commercial insurance, as well as Coloradans with Medicaid coverage through Health First Colorado.
This proposed Colorado law would increase syphilis testing during pregnancy Beyond the public health order, Colorado lawmakers introduced HB24-1456, which aims to expand the existing requirement to test a pregnant person for syphilis.
“This bill works with the state to improve syphilis testing during pregnancy, so health care providers can catch infections early and administer simple, effective treatment.


Unborn children are being impacted by Colorado’s syphilis epidemic, and a new public health order seeks to improve access to screening and treatment.

A bacterial infection called syphilis is frequently transmitted through sex. Mouth or genital sores are the usual symptoms of the illness. Congenital syphilis is the term for the condition that can travel from mother to child through breastfeeding or direct contact with sores. Years may pass after the infection occurs before syphilis is discovered, but in that time, it can cause serious harm to the heart, brain, and other organs and even become fatal.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment reports that the number of congenital syphilis cases in Colorado increased by more than seven times between 2018 and 2023. There have been at least 25 cases of congenital syphilis reported in 2024, including two neonatal fatalities and five stillbirths.

Colorado declared a congenital syphilis epidemic on April 18.

The executive director of the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, Jill Hunsaker Ryan, stated in a news release, “We are very concerned about this growing epidemic, both in the state and nationally.”. “Babies suffer greatly, but if detected in utero, there is a successful treatment. Our ability to identify more prenatal cases will be aided by the public health order I am granting. ****.

More:Syphilis cases are rising sharply, but experts fear that nobody is taking notice. We must discuss it.

Colorado increases coverage and testing for syphilis.

The public health order mandates increased availability to syphilis testing for expectant mothers. It mandates that testing be made available by medical professionals more frequently during pregnancy and that testing be made available in correctional facilities.

Health First Colorado, which is run by the Department of Health Care Policy and Financing, will pay for testing for Coloradans with Medicaid.

People in Colorado who have commercial insurance or who receive Medicaid coverage through Health First Colorado are exempt from paying a co-pay for syphilis testing, per the public health order.

Colorado’s Medicaid program, Health First Colorado, is open to uninsured residents.

If you don’t currently have a health care provider, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention offers a map with locations that offer reasonable and free testing.

Also available for free is an at-home test kit for Coloradans.

According to a press release, state epidemiologist Rachel Herlihy stated, “The good news is that highly effective treatments exist.”. “All we need to do is get people in early enough to save the lives of newborns and avoid complications down the road. “.”.

Pregnant women would be subject to more syphilis tests under this proposed Colorado law.

Legislature in Colorado introduced HB24-1456, a bill that seeks to increase the current mandate that a pregnant woman be tested for syphilis, in addition to the public health directive.

Democrats in state legislature said, “The rise in congenital syphilis in Colorado is concerning, and we’re working together as a state to tackle this public health crisis that’s affecting our communities, especially our infants.” Thornton resident Julia Marvin stated in a press release.

“This bill collaborates with the state to enhance syphilis testing throughout pregnancy, enabling medical professionals to identify infections early and provide straightforward, efficient care. Furthermore, this bill would provide the State Board of Health with more latitude to oversee and modify congenital syphilis protocols in order to guarantee that our pregnant citizens are getting the necessary care and attention. “.”.

The House is now debating this bill.

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