Since the first reports in the 1490s, syphilis has been referred to by many names generally attributed to foreigners: “French disease”, “Neapolitan disease”, “Polish disease”, etc.
The name “great impersonator” has become permanent; because syphilis is adept at mimicking other infections and the initial symptoms are easily overlooked. If left untreated, it can lead to serious consequences. The latest data on sexually transmitted infections (STDs) in the US is from April. According to this data, cases of syphilis showed the largest increase, with a 32% increase between 2020 and 21, reaching the highest number of recorded cases in 70 years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that the epidemic showed no signs of slowing down. The CDC points to some “worrying” new trends driving this disease spike.
Congenital (congenital) syphilis is when a mother passes the infection to her child during pregnancy, usually after she has contracted the infection from her partner. The disease can cause stillbirth, infant death and lifelong health problems. In the US, these cases have risen sharply by 32% between 2020 and 2021. This has surprised many health experts.
This is not unique to the US. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), 7.1 million new cases of syphilis were diagnosed worldwide in 2020. In 2022, cases of syphilis in the UK reached their highest level since 1948. According to data from Stichting Soa, known for its work on STDs, it has increased by 8.4 percent between 2020-2021.
The rise in cases is well known to primary health care professionals.
The infection is caused by a bacteria called Treponema pallidum and the symptoms are divided into four stages. The earliest period presents with a painless ulcer or rash at the site of contact. Intramuscular administration of penicillin is considered the most effective way to treat the infection. However, if left untreated, syphilis can lead to neurological and cardiovascular (cardiovascular) disease in the long run.
WHAT MUST WE DO?
For most health officials, the way to fight syphilis is clear: Despite the rise in antibiotic resistance, penicillin is still the best treatment, and we already have the drugs to fight it.
Much more emphasis is being placed on public awareness to promote more testing, better outreach against the stigma attributed to patients, and safer sexual practices.
HOW IS IT TRANSFERRED?
Syphilis is usually transmitted through oral, vaginal and anal sex, to a lesser extent pregnancy and blood transfusions, kissing, etc. transmitted ways. It can also be passed from person to person through direct contact with the wounds caused by the bacteria. These wounds can be seen on the external genitalia, vagina, anus, rectum, mouth and lips. Syphilis can be passed from an infected mother to her unborn baby. The disease is not hereditary.
It is a preventable and treatable disease. Transmission can be prevented by using condoms during sexual contact.
Syphilis may show no symptoms in the early stages and can be difficult to diagnose. If left untreated, it is a disease that lasts for years.
Symptoms begin to appear within three weeks of intercourse. The disease can be seen in three stages.