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Syphilis was once a sexually transmitted disease that was known in epidemic proportion the world over. However, in recent years, syphilis has been downgraded to a disease that can be easily treated and symptoms reduced to being mildly uncomfortable. The Center for Disease Control in Atlanta is planning to declare Syphilis eliminated from the United States within the next five years. In order to achieve this lofty goal, continued education on prevention of the disease is quintessential.
Syphilis is believed to have originated in North America and was spread to Europe by the Columbus expeditions beginning in 1492, the oldest example of which has been found in the Colorado Plateau which dates back two-thousand years and the earliest example of yaws has been found in skeletons discovered in Ohio that dates back over 8000 years. Currently, in the U.S., syphilis is found in concentration in urban areas and in the rural South. Worldwide, it is found concentrated in areas of high poverty and with few efforts at STD prevention in general. The disease itself is not supported by differences in geography, the spirochete are able to survive and transfer in most climates.
Syphilis is caused by the invasion of a bacterium called Treponema pallidum. The bacterium creates an ulcer on mucous membranes in the delicate tissues of the genital area, mouth or the anus. This bacteria causes ulcers at the site of infection which serve as an entrance of the bacteria to the body. Once the bacteria enters the body, it travels to the vital organs and, if left untreated, may cause heart abnormalities, mental illness, and/or neurological complications that may lead to death.
As with all infections, a quick response is the best. To the favor of the host, syphilis remains dormant for a period of time, which makes diagnosis and treatment that much easier. Testing and diagnosis must be made by a physician in a clinical setting as isolation of the bacterium can be so difficult. Hosts should be on the lookout for the first signs of the primary infection, genital or point-of-infection lesions. The first line of attack against syphilis is parenteral penicillin G and is the preferred treatment at all stages of infection.