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Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease (STD) caused by the bacterium Treponema pallidum. It has often been called “the great imitator” because so many of the signs and symptoms are indistinguishable from those of other diseases.

Syphilis Profiles 2009

Syphilis - Fact Sheet (CDC)
How do people get syphilis? What are the signs and symptoms of syphilis? How does syphilis affect a pregnant woman and her baby?

Syphilis and Men Who Have Sex with Men - Fact Sheet (CDC)
Basic information about men who have sex with men and syphilis in plain language.

What to Watch for:

1st Stage:

  • Symptoms show up 3-12 weeks after having sex.
  • A painless sore or sores on the mouth, sex organs, breast or fingers.
  • Sore lasts 1-5 weeks.
  • Sore goes away, but you still have syphilis.

2nd Stage:

  • Symptoms show up 1 week-6 months after sore heals.
  • A rash anywhere on the body.
  • Flu-like feelings.
  • Rash and flu-like feelings go away, but you still have syphilis.

How Do You Get This STD:

  • Spread during vaginal, anal or oral sex with someone who has syphilis.

What Happens If You Don't Get Treated:

  • You can give syphilis to your sexual partner(s).
  • A mother with syphilis can give it to her baby during childbirth or have a miscarriage.
  • Can cause heart disease, brain damage, blindness and death.