ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – New Mexico’s public health officials are taking steps to cut down on the number of congenital syphilis cases across the state. They say there’s “concern” due to a nationwide increase in cases.

Syphilis is a bacterial infection that is often spread by sexual contact (i.e. a sexually transmitted disease). It’s generally curable with treatment. But if left untreated in a pregnant mother, it can be passed to her child during pregnancy, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). When passed during pregnancy, it’s called congenital syphilis.

From 2016 to 2020, the number of congenital syphilis cases in the U.S. by over 250%, according to CDC statistics and the New Mexico Department of Health (DOH). In New Mexico, the number of cases has also been on the rise.

There was only one reported case in New Mexico in 2017 and 10 cases in 2018. But in 2019, there were 26 cases. And by 2020, there were 42 reported cases in New Mexico, according to DOH.

As a result, the state has renewed a 2021 public health order mandating medical providers to test pregnant women multiple times for syphilis, so that if they have the disease, they can be treated. DOH is also planning on urging lawmakers to create state law that would require testing during pregnancy and during delivery.

In 2021, lawmakers considered such a bill. But the introduced legislation didn’t make it past committee approval.

“Congenital syphilis is a completely preventable disease,” Dr. David Scrase, the acting secretary for DOH, said in a press release. “Treatment is available and affordable. Every encounter with a pregnant woman is an opportunity to test for syphilis, especially in people who are high risk or not yet engaged in prenatal care.”

Treatment is generally done using penicillin. Symptoms of syphilis include painless sores, but can also be present without any noticeable symptoms. So, the CDC recommends that all pregnant people, as well as sexually active individuals with HIV or who are at-risk for sexually transmitted disease, be tested. New Mexicans can find more information about testing at