- What is it? A bacterial infection caused by an organism called a spirochete.
- How is it contracted? Through oral, anal, or vaginal sex, or via intimate touching or kissing. Mothers can pass it to their babies by touching syphilis sores (chancres) and then touching the baby.
- Incubation Period: One week to three months
- Symptoms: During the first stage of a syphilis infection, painless sores or open ulcers may appear on the anus, vagina, penis, or inside the mouth, and occasionally on other parts of the body. During the second stage (roughly three weeks to three months after the first symptoms appear), an infected person may experience flu-like symptoms and possibly hair loss or a rash on the soles and palms -- and in some cases all over the body. There are also latent phases of syphilis infection during which symptoms are absent.
- Testing: Diagnosis of syphilis is done through a blood test and/or examination of secretions from chancres.
- Treatment: Antibiotics -Benzathine penicillin G 2.4 mU intramuscular injection or Doxycycline 100 mg by mouth 2-3 times a days for 14 days.
- If you are not treated: Untreated syphilis can lead to serious damage to the brain and the nervous system; mental deterioration; a loss of balance, vision, and sensation; leg pain; and heart disease. A fetus is at particular risk if the mother doesn't seek treatment; the chances for stillbirth and serious birth defects, including blindness, are very high.