The rate of syphilis cases is five times the national average in Bexar County. The county recorded 18 babies born with congenital syphilis in 2012. Five of those babies died at birth, and the remaining 13 have lifelong disabilities, including mental retardation, facial deformities, and blindness.
In response, Dr. Thomas Schlenker, San Antonio's health director, recommends that local clinics and hospitals test pregnant women for syphilis during the first and third trimesters and at birth. Of the mothers who transmitted congenital syphilis in 2012, a majority of them were Hispanic and young. Schlenker notes that if blood tests for syphilis had been done during the pregnancies, all of these cases could have been prevented. In nearly all cases, a single penicillin shot will cure the disease. Syphilis is an STD that can eventually kill a person if left untreated.