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"Congenital syphilis rates soar across California as public health funding dwindles"

CalMatters interviewed Dr. Jennifer Wagman, UCLA Fielding School of Public Health associate professor of community health sciences, about research that found California has the sixth-highest rate of congenital syphilis in the country, with rates increasing every year

Monday, October 10, 2022

In the Central Valley, where two-thirds of the nation’s fruit and nuts are grown, the pastoral landscape masks entrenched racial and economic disparities. Life expectancy in Fresno County drops by 20 years depending on where you live, and it’s those who live in historically poor, redlined or rural neighborhoods who are most impacted by a resurgence of maternal and congenital syphilis.

“Are you familiar with syphilis?” Hou Vang, a county communicable disease specialist, asks a pregnant woman standing in the shade of a tree outside her home.

She lives with her parents in Reedley, California, a small town 30 minutes southeast of the city of Fresno, surrounded by neat rows of grapevines, orange groves and almond trees.