The Louisiana Department of Health has received a $550,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to strengthen its congenital syphilis activities and initiatives.

Congenital syphilis, which is highly preventable, has become an alarming problem that urgently requires awareness, attention and action. In Louisiana, data from the most recent STD Surveillance Report found that the number of congenital syphilis cases spiked for the fourth year in a row. From 2015-2016 alone, there were a total of 628 cases – a rise of nearly 30 percent over the previous year.

The grant will support activities statewide, with targeted attention in the Baton Rouge and Shreveport areas as these areas have especially high rates of congenital syphilis. This priority funding will enhance current STD activities and bolster congenital syphilis control efforts.

DeAnn Gruber, director of the Bureau of Infectious Diseases for the Louisiana Department of Health, said the funding will address screening and treating pregnant women for STDs. “Syphilis in pregnant women can cause miscarriages, premature births, stillbirths or death of newborns. Without adequate prenatal treatment, historical data indicates up to 40 percent of babies born to women with untreated syphilis may be stillborn or die from the infection as a newborn.”

Gruber added that for babies who live after contracting syphilis, they can have deformed bones, skin rashes, severe anemia, jaundice, enlarged livers and spleens, seizures, developmental delays and other neurologic problems.

“These outcomes are a sadness that we simply cannot allow. The effects of congenital syphilis ripple through homes, families and communities – it can alter the course of someone’s entire life and create many challenges for families,” she added.

The grant will allow the Louisiana Department of Health’s STD/HIV Program to conduct focused efforts on the following specific activities:

  • Improving congenital syphilis case data collection, including maternal and fetal epidemiologic and clinical risk factor data.
  • Improving collection of pregnancy status for all cases of syphilis among women of reproductive age.
  • Strengthening congenital syphilis morbidity and mortality case review boards at the local and state level to help identify causes of congenital syphilis and develop interventions to address the causes.
  • Improving methods to match vital statistics birth and mortality data with syphilis surveillance data to review syphilis testing practices among stillbirths, identify missed cases of syphilis-related stillbirth, and strengthen stillbirth case report data.
  • Strengthening partnerships with local health care providers, community organizations, state and local Title V maternal and child health programs, Medicaid programs, and health care organizations.

Including Louisiana, the CDC awarded a total of $4 million to public health agencies in California, Illinois, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and Texas. The 15-month awards ranged from $250,000-$700,000.


The Louisiana Department of Health strives to protect and promote health statewide and to ensure access to medical, preventive and rehabilitative services for all state residents. To learn more about LDH, visit For up-to-date health information, news and emergency updates, follow LDH's Twitter account, Facebook and blog.