New paper highlights issues of syphilis

As of November 2007, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention marked a 14 percent increase in the rates of syphilis across the United States since 2006, spurring worry about safer sex practices and the use of condoms among Americans. From 2004 to 2008, the rate of syphilis increased the most among American men and women aged 15 to 24. 

Syphilis rates rose even higher in China recently, as a paper published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that 20 people out of 100,000 have syphilis. In fact, some of the most recent data shows that 500,000 stillbirths are caused by the STD each year, according to The Guardian.

That indicates that there may be a lack of awareness among sexually active people when it comes to this particular disease. The first step is to recognize the symptoms, which include a sore that appears three to six weeks after sex. It may heal over, until the secondary stage, when a rash emerges on the palms, hands and feet. Other signs include a sore throat, fever or headaches. The newspaper reports that, if syphilis is left untreated, it can cause blindness, dementia and paralysis.

Doctors can generally diagnose the disease with a blood test or by identifying the bacteria present on a sore. Most everyday antibiotics, such as Penicillin, can easily treat the disease.

However, this can be an uncomfortable or painful experience – one that would best be avoided completely. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stress the importance of knowing how to use a condom so that sex can be safer. The organization states that contraceptives can reduce the risk for syphilis and similar diseases, although skin-to-skin contact may still cause transmission of an STI.  

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