Syphilis

Overview

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. Anyone who is sexually active can get syphilis, but some people are more at risk than others. If the patient is a man who has sex with men, has HIV, or have partner(s) who have tested positive for syphilis, routine testing is recommended. If the syphilis infection is left untreated, it progresses through stages that are often separated by long periods of latency. The symptoms that present are dependent upon the stage of infection:

  • Primary syphilis: A painless ulcer, or chancre, at the site of infection that forms one to 12 weeks after exposure
  • Secondary syphilis: Skin rash (usually on the palms and soles of feet), fever, headache, hair loss, and muscle aches
  • Latent syphilis: Can lead to damage to the brain, heart, or other organs
  • Tertiary (late) syphilis: Can lead to brain damage, dementia, mental health problems, heart disease, movement disorders, muscle problems, nerve damage, seizures, tumors on the bones and skin, vision problems.

Congenital syphilis occurs when infection is passed from a pregnant mother to her baby. All pregnant women should be tested for syphilis at their first prenatal visit. Congenital syphilis may result in organ damage, bone deficiencies, cataracts, deafness, seizures, and can sometimes be fatal.

Report syphilis cases within three business days.

To report, call the reporting line at 360-728-2235 or fax the STI case reporting form to 360-813-1168.

Additional Information and Resources

State Reporting and Surveillance Guidelines (DOH)

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CDC Call to Action to Reduce Syphilis Cases in the U.S.

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Other Resources for Healthcare Professionals

CDCDOHMedscape