Zika is not the only disease plaguing pregnant women in Brazil

Recently I wrote a news story for Quartz about the increasing numbers of syphilis infections among pregnant women and newborns in Brazil.

While the country’s spotlight is on the microcephaly-linked Zika virus, cases of pregnant women and newborn babies suffering from syphilis silently jumped year after year as a shortage in penicillin hits the country.

Both diseases are linked to birth defects, such as severe brain damage and deformities – but press coverage and public investment have been disproportionately targeting the mosquito-borne virus.

Syphilis is currently more deadly than Zika infection – it leads to one in every 10 infected pregnancies ending in either fetal or baby death. In 2013 alone, the disease led to 695 neonatal and infant deaths in Brazil.

“People don’t see syphilis as a serious disease as much as they see HIV and Zika, and we are seeing a comeback of the infection, which is now routinely detected in pregnant women,” says Jorge Senise, infectologist at a health center for women with STIs at Federal University of Sao Paulo.

The full story can be read at Quartz.


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