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Three babies born with syphilis in Milwaukee in 2017, leaders trying to figure out how to stop spread of STDs

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- One Milwaukee leader is speaking out about a problem the city has with sexually transmitted diseases. 

She calls it pouring an accelerant on a flame. 

Dozens of people are affected, even babies born with syphilis. 

The Interim Health Commissioner says privacy concerns are keeping her from getting to the root of one of Milwaukee's most dangerous sexually transmitted infections. 

"Two things about it is unusual, the lower ages and the babies," says Dr. Patricia McManus, Interim Health Commissioner. 

Three babies born with syphilis in 2017 is how McManus knows Milwaukee doesn't have control over the problem of sexually transmitted infections. 

In March, the Health Department announced the discovery of a cluster of 76 people infected with HIV, syphilis, or both. On Friday, at a meeting of the Health and Public Safety Committee, members asked McManus how we got here and to come up with a plan moving forward. 

It's always been a kind of an issue to the City of Milwaukee, but how did it get to this? That's mind-boggling to me," said Ald. Mark Borkowski.

"Have we just shook our heads and accepted the garbage that essentially is going on out there and the challenges that we're really faced with?" asked Ald. Bob Donovan during Friday's meeting. 

Before last year, the last baby born with syphilis in Milwaukee was in 2012. She said in modern society, it shouldn't happen, period. 

Syphilis can be deadly for babies, but right now the health department does not know if those babies survived and they're not trying to find out due to HIPAA laws and concerns for the families' privacy. 

If you're going to broach and try and figure that out, what are you bringing to the family? I'm sure the other resources for them are already there. 

Dr. McManus said Friday that regional health departments have reached out to her to tell her they are also seeing a similar increase in HIV cases. 

She's expected to return to the committee with a plan to fight the problem in the coming months. 

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