What is it?

Syphilis is anoth­er sex­u­al­ly trans­mit­ted infec­tion caused by bac­te­ria. If you do have it, it can affect your entire body. If left untreat­ed, syphilis can cause seri­ous com­pli­ca­tions, and syphilis in preg­nan­cy can result in com­pli­ca­tions for the new­born. Cur­rent­ly, there is an out­break of syphilis in Win­nipeg and oth­er parts of Manitoba.

How do I get it?

Syphilis can be spread through unpro­tect­ed vagi­nal, anal, and oral sex. It can be passed on whether the infect­ed per­son has symp­toms or not, but there is a high­er chance of trans­mis­sion if you come into con­tact with a sore. It can also be spread through kiss­ing if there is a sore in your mouth.

What should I be look­ing for?

There are three stages to the infec­tion. In its first stage (a week to three months after expo­sure) syphilis caus­es sores to appear around the vagi­na, penis, and anus, and inside the mouth. The sores may not be painful and may come and go on their own. Some peo­ple who have syphilis don’t get sores, or they don’t see them because they’re inside the vagi­na or anus.

These symp­toms will then go away, and then a cou­ple of months lat­er, the per­son will expe­ri­ence flu”-like symp­toms, fever, swollen lymph nodes and a rash (sec­ond stage). Some peo­ple nev­er have fur­ther symp­toms. Peo­ple who get fur­ther symp­toms may have to wait years, even decades, for them to show up. This is known as late-stage syphilis. By now the bac­te­ria have caused sig­nif­i­cant dam­age through­out the body. In a third of peo­ple with late-stage syphilis, one or more of the fol­low­ing symp­toms may show up: blind­ness, deaf­ness, skin ulcers, heart dis­ease, liv­er dam­age, paral­y­sis, and demen­tia. For many peo­ple, this stage ends in death.

How do I get tested?

Test­ing is usu­al­ly done through a blood test at your health care provider’s office or a clinic.

Can I get rid of it?

Yes. Syphilis can be cured with antibi­otics, although the dam­age syphilis does to the body in the lat­er stages can’t be reversed. It’s more dif­fi­cult to get rid of than chlamy­dia and gon­or­rhea, and the antibi­ot­ic is usu­al­ly giv­en by injec­tion into your bum muscle.