Indiana seeing more cases of syphilis crossing over into babies

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INDIANAPOLIS- Indiana is seeing a re-emergence of syphilis cases and the victims are getting younger and younger.

“Now the alarming thing we’re seeing, it’s crossing over into babies. So there are heterosexual couples that are becoming infected with syphilis, particularly pregnant women,” said Dr. Janet Arno, the medical director of the Bell Flower Clinic.

It’s being traced back to the drug epidemic.

Marion County has seven documented cases of babies born with syphilis over the last two years. There is one other case reported outside of the county and the Bell Flower Clinic is working on more.

“If you use crystal meth, you should get a test,” said Dr. Arno. “Because the new trend is being traced directly to drugs, especially the use of crystal meth.”

Currently, there are 235 cases of syphilis in Marion county, and the majority are still linked to men. Controlling it means finding and treating every partner of the infected patient. Doctors are turning to social media to make those connections.

“We use Facebook indirectly by looking up individuals who are infected and seeing who they may have as a partner--who might benefit from a test and we say you may have been exposed,” said Dr. Arno.

Syphilis is treatable with penicillin. However, half the people who have it don’t have symptoms. If they’re not treated quickly, it can be deadly.

“With time the destruction of the heart, early heart disease, there can be psychosis, there can be painful shooting pains in the legs and feet, that doesn’t become reversible,” said Dr. Arno.


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