I generally don’t like broadcasting my schoolwork for the entire world to see, but this was a report I did on Syphilis for science class. I added a bit of humor hoping that my science teacher would laugh so hard she would forget the fact that I didn’t follow the rubric at all. It’s important for people to know what can happen if you don’t use protection while having sex, and my report informed people of the dangers of Syphilis.
Syphilis is a sexually transmitted disease, or STD, caused by a spirochaete bacterium. It has many different American names, including “Syph”, “Cupid’s Disease”, “The Great Pox,” and “The French Disease.” You may be asking yourself “Why do we call it ‘The French Disease’?” and the answer is simple. Because the infection broke out big among the French Army in the 16th century, it was named morbus gallicus, meaning “French Disease.” Annoyed that English would name an STD after them, the French rebelled and named it la maladie anglaise (The English Disease). After other countries discovered that you could actually name syphilis after people you hate, a chain of hate was set off. Before we knew it the Russians had named it “The Polish Disease,” the Polish had named it “The Italian Disease,” and the Arabs—being the ingenious, quick-witted race they are—thought up their own original name, and called it “The Disease of the Christians.” Finally, everyone forgot their hate and agreed to just call it “lues.”
Syphilis is passed from person to person through direct contact with a syphilis sore. Sores occur mainly on the external genitals, vagina, anus, or in the rectum, however, they can also appear on the lips and in the mouth. It can infect either male or female and having vaginal, anal, or oral sex transfers the disease. Pregnant women can also pass it on to their babies. Because it is so easily transferred, syphilis is recorded to have infected roughly 34,000 people in the United States, and was accounted for 56% of San Francisco infections in 2004.
Many people infected with Syphilis do not see the symptoms for years, but are still at risk and can still pass the disease on. Syphilis is often called “The Great Imitator,” because many of the signs are indistinguishable from those of other diseases. The symptoms of syphilis are broken down into three separate stages.
1. Primary Stage: The primary stage of syphilis is usually marked by the appearance of a single sore, although there may be multiple sores. These sores are called chancres, and they are small, round, and painless. The chancre will last from 3 to 6 weeks, after which it will seem to disappear. However, if the syphilis is not recognized and treated, infection will progress into the secondary stage.
2. Secondary Stage: The secondary stage of syphilis is marked with a rash on the infected area. The rash appears rough and red, and may also spread to the palms of the hands and bottom of the feet. Sometimes the rashes associated with syphilis are so faint they are not recognized or confused for sunburns or rope burns. In addition to rashes, symptoms of secondary syphilis may include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, fatigue, and low gas mileage. A person with syphilis is most contagious when they are in the secondary stage. With or without treatment the symptoms will once again disappear, but without treatment, the infection will progress to the latent stage of the disease.
3. Latent Stage: The latent, or hidden, stage of syphilis begins when secondary symptoms disappear. Without treatment, the infected person will continue to have syphilis even though there are no signs or symptoms. Instead, the infection will remain in the body. Signs and symptoms of the latent stage of syphilis include difficulty coordinating muscle movements, paralysis, numbness, gradual blindness, and deterioration of intellectual faculties, such as memory, concentration, and judgment. In short, if you do not get tested for syphilis, you will turn into a drunken man. This damage may be serious enough to cause death.
The first choice treatment for primary, secondary, and early latent stages of syphilis remains penicillin. However, the oldest, and still most effective, method is to inject benzathine penicillin into each buttock (procaine is added to make the pain bearable). The dose must be given half in each buttock because the amount given would be too painful if given in a single injection. In 1512, the Romans used mercury to treat the infection. This, of course, led to the saying:
“A night in the arms of Venus leads to a lifetime on Mercury”
This treatment of syphilis is rumored to be used in Shakespeare’s literature. In his play Measure for Measure, his character says “thy bones are hollow.” This is believed to be a reference to the brittleness of bones caused by the use of mercury.
Prevention of syphilis is very simple: Don’t have sex. However, if you do find the urge to have sexual activities with a partner, make sure to wear at least two or three condoms. This, of course, leads to the very common saying that I just made up:
“Protect your stiffness, or you might get syphilis”
I will keep you all posted as to the grade I receive.