Congenital syphilis is on the rise in Houston. Have you been tested?

In recent years, Texas has witnessed a troubling increase in congenital syphilis cases among those who are pregnant– and Houston appears to be bearing the brunt of new cases. The resurgence of this preventable infection highlights the critical need for comprehensive prenatal care and accessible health services working in concert with one another. At Legacy, we are committed to reversing this trend through education, prevention, treatment, and community outreach. So…

What is Congenital Syphilis?

Congenital syphilis occurs when the syphilis bacterium is transmitted from an infected pregnant parent to their baby during pregnancy. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) notes that congenital syphilis can cause miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, and severe lifelong physical and neurological issues.

The Houston Scenario

Locally, UT Health observed a 128% increase in congenital syphilis in Houston since 2019. This increase is part of a broader trend seen across Texas and reflects gaps in prenatal care and testing. Many cases are preventable with timely diagnosis and treatment during pregnancy, which underscores the importance of regular prenatal visits and STI testing.

Symptoms and Diagnosis

During pregnancy, you may not show obvious symptoms of syphilis, which makes regular testing during pregnancy crucial. When symptoms do occur, they can mimic other illnesses, which makes syphilis a “great imitator.” Symptoms might include a rash on the palms of the hands or soles of the feet, sores in the genital area, fever, swollen lymph glands, and hair loss.

For those living with syphilis and birthing a child, the baby may present with symptoms of syphilis, which can be severe and may include:

  • Physical disabilities
  • Developmental disabilities
  • Seizures
  • Rash
  • Fever

Early diagnosis and treatment with penicillin, the only recommended treatment while pregnant and living with syphilis, can prevent adverse outcomes.

Where Your Legacy Provider Comes In

At Legacy Community Health, we are deeply concerned about the rise in congenital syphilis in our communities and are dedicated to fighting the spread of this preventable infection. To address this, we offer free walk-in HIV testing, affordable full panel STI testing and free pregnancy testing at all our locations. These services are part of our commitment to accessible health care and play a crucial role in the early detection and prevention of congenital syphilis – and many other infections.

Legacy’s healthcare providers are trained to screen for syphilis and other STIs during pregnancy and provide immediate treatment when necessary. Our facilities are equipped to offer comprehensive prenatal care, ensuring that expectant parents receive the support they need to have healthy pregnancies.

What Should You Do?

You can help combat congenital syphilis by:

  • Getting tested for STIs regularly:
  • Seeking immediate prenatal care if you suspect you are pregnant:
  • Educate others about the importance of STI testing and prenatal

If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, consider visiting Legacy Community Health for a free pregnancy test and comprehensive STI screening. Early intervention is crucial to prevent the transmission of syphilis from parent to child.


If you would like to make an appointment with your Legacy provider, please visit us online or call us at (832) 546-5000. Together, we can work towards a healthier future for you and your growing family.