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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.

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 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.





 Syphilis infections decreased 8% in 2017 (N=95) from 2016 (N=103). Historically, syphilis was found among the men having sex with men (MSM) population until 2016 when the heterosexual population in West Virginia exceeded MSM in the number of total infections. For 2017, there were two cases of congenital syphilis; one stillbirth and one baby that was successfully treated after birth. The CDC now recommends syphilis testing early in the third trimester among high risk pregnant females to allow time for adequate treatment before birth. Syphilis can be cured with proper treatment, but left untreated may cause various neurological manifestations including vision loss (ocular syphilis), difficulty coordinating muscle movements, or paralysis.


For more information, call the West Virginia HIV/AIDS & STD Hotline:


Trained professionals are available to speak with you weekdays (except holidays) from 8:00 am to 4:00 pm. We can answer your questions about HIV/AIDS and other STDs in West Virginia, how to protect yourself, how to be tested, and how to get treatment.