What Is Syphilis?

Syphilis is a highly contagious sexually transmitted disease (STD) that is caused by a bacterial infection. It enters the body through membranes of the genitals, rectum and mouth during sexual activity. Syphilis can cause irreparable damage to the body’s organs and, if left untreated, lead to heart disease, stroke, blindness and even death. Babies born to mothers with syphilis can have deformities or be stillborn.

More than 24,000 cases of syphilis were reported in 2015, an increase of 19 percent over the previous year. Young people ages 15 to 24 and homosexual men are at the greatest risk of contracting syphilis.

The only way to avoid getting syphilis is to avoid having vaginal, anal or oral sex. If you are sexually active:

  • Use a condom or dental dam every time you have sex.
  • Only have sex with a partner who has been tested and is free of STDs.
  • Don’t be afraid to talk to your partner about STDs. Another name for syphilis is the pox.
  • Cases of syphilis are reported to the state health department.