Case-based Surveillance for Syphilis
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Syphilis, a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacterium Treponema Pallidum, is a reportable disease in all jurisdictions in the United States and is a nationally notifiable condition with case notifications provided to CDC through the National Notifiable Diseases Surveillance System (NNDSS). To enable public health officials to classify and count cases consistently across jurisdictions, syphilis cases, including congenital syphilis cases, should be identified using current CSTE surveillance case definitions.

This course provides information on case-based surveillance for syphilis, including surveillance of congenital syphilis. The intended audience for this course includes state, tribal, local, and territorial health department staff working in STD surveillance, as well as STD disease intervention specialists and STD program managers. The information provided in this course is based on the 2018 CSTE position statements that provides the syphilis case definition, as well as guidance from CDC’s Division of STD Prevention. The content was developed and is presented by surveillance subject matter experts in CDC’s Division of STD Prevention.

Lesson 1: Adult Syphilis Staging

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe the differences between clinical and surveillance staging of adult syphilis
  2. Understand how laboratory, clinical, and epidemiological data are used to identify surveillance stages of syphilis
  3. Appropriately identify and stage adult syphilis cases using current CSTE case definitions

Lesson 2: An Automated Record Search and Review Algorithm: Prioritizing Syphilis Serologies

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  1. Explain the importance of public health departments prioritizing serologic tests for syphilis
  2. Discuss the methods that have been used to prioritize serologic tests for syphilis
  3. Discuss a new approach to prioritize syphilis serologies using a computational algorithm

Lesson 3: Congenital Syphilis Case Classification

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  1. Understand current CSTE case definitions for congenital syphilis and congenital syphilis stillbirths
  2. Describe the differences between maternal and infant criteria for classification of congenital syphilis
  3. Apply current CSTE case definitions to identify congenital syphilis cases

Lesson 4: Congenital Syphilis Chart Abstraction

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  1. Understand the reporting algorithm for congenital syphilis
  2. Define all infant criteria elements of the congenital syphilis algorithm
  3. Identify infant criteria elements through medical chart abstraction

 Lesson 5: Assigning Residency for Congenital Syphilis Case Notifications

By the end of the session, participants will be able to:

  1. Describe how residency should be identified and reported on congenital syphilis case notifications sent to CDC
  2. Understand how CDC assigns congenital syphilis morbidity to a jurisdiction
  3. Identify best practices for when mother’s state of residency and reporting state differ for congenital syphilis cases

This training series was funded by CDC Cooperative Agreement No: 1 NU38OT000297-03-00. The contents of this training are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of CDC. 


  • 1.4 – Data Analytics and Assessment Skills – Conducts surveillance activities
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