New Wyoming Cases, 2015: 10
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by the bacteria Treponema palladium. For many years, documented cases of syphilis were on the decline due to widespread use of antibiotics and increased precautionary measures due to the HIV epidemic. However, recent years have seen increased numbers again, particularly among men who have sex with men.
If left untreated, syphilis will progress through the three stages and become more dangerous. In late stages, syphilis can damage the internal organs, including the brain, nerves, eyes, heart, blood vessels, liver, bones and joints. Gradual blindness, paralysis, numbness and dementia can also occur, and in extreme cases, can result in death. Syphilis cannot be spread through contact with toilet seats, doorknobs, swimming pools, hot tubs, bathtubs, shared clothing, or eating utensils. Instead, it is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore, mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum; sores can also occur on the lips and in the mouth. Sores, or chancres are not painful, unlike herpes sores. Pregnant women with the disease can pass it along to the children during birth.
Basic precautionary measures can be highly effective in preventing the transmission of this disease. Abstinence or monogamy with an uninfected partner is the most effective preventative technique; regardless, knowing one’s own status and the status of one’s partner is important. The use of lubricated condoms can greatly reduce the risk of infection, although the use of spermicidal foams, creams or jellies can cause microscopic abrasions that facilitate transmission. If any sores appear on the body, refrain from sexual activity and get tested immediately.
Syphilis has been referred to as the “Great Imitator” because symptoms often mimic those of other diseases. There are three stages of syphilis infection, each with different symptoms and complications.
Penicillin is the primary choice for treatment of syphilis, although anyone who is allergic to penicillin will be treated with doxycycline. Advanced stages of syphilis infection may require additional forms of treatment.