Syphilis is a bacterial infection that if left untreated, can lead to serious chronic health issues.

How would I get it?

  • Spread through unprotected oral, vaginal, or anal sex, mutual masturbation or sharing of sex toys with an infected person
  • Direct contact with a syphilitic sore or rash
  • It may also be passed from an infected mother to infant during birth

What kind of symptoms could I have if I am infected?

  • Some people who are infected may not have any symptoms at all
  • Syphilis passes through stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary) with each having different symptoms and treatment

More common symptoms throughout all stages:

  • A painless ulcer or sore at the point of infection, most often genitals, anus, or throat
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Hair loss
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Rash, especially on the palms of hands and soles of feet
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Weight loss
  • Headaches
  • Eye infection
  • Meningitis
  • Flat smooth warts on your genitals

When a syphilis infection reaches the last stage (tertiary), it can affect the brain, heart, bones, or blood vessels, and in rare cases these complications can lead to death.

How do I prevent this?

  • Condoms and dental dams
  • Avoid skin to skin transmission with a sore or rash

How do I get tested?

  • Blood test; expect results to come back in 1-2 weeks
  • Fluid collection from a sore

What if I test positive?

  • This infection is treated with antibiotics; you may require more than one dose depending on what stage you are in
  • If left untreated, syphilis can cause serious health problems
  • Syphilis is a reportable infection – meaning someone from Public Health may contact you for further information and you are required to notify sexual partners. Should you prefer to remain anonymous, Public Health can assist by notifying any or all partners. 

How do I know it’s gone?

  • You will need to have follow up testing to make sure the treatment worked
  • We also recommend regular testing if you are at risk of a new infection

Learn more here