Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). It is easily spread through unprotected oral, vaginal or anal sex. Syphilis can infect the genitals, rectum and mouth.
Syphilis rates are rising in people of child-bearing age in WA, including in the Perth metro area.
When people first get infected with syphilis they may experience mild, painless ulcers (called chancre). These can appear anywhere on the body where there has been sexual contact, for example on or near their mouth, genitals or anus.
These ulcers may then disappear for some time – even years – however unless treated, a person will still be infected with syphilis and can pass the infection to others through unprotected sex.
At first, many people with syphilis will not get any symptoms at all. This means that you can't tell if someone has syphilis and you may not know if you have syphilis yourself unless you get tested.
As the infection progresses, other symptoms, like fever, headache, rash, hair-loss, swollen lymph nodes, hearing-loss, wart-like lesions or visual disturbance can occur. This can cause serious long-term complications for your health.
If a pregnant woman gets syphilis, her baby can have life-long disability or be stillborn.
Syphilis can be treated with antibiotics – the earlier the infection is found, the easier it is to treat.
It's important to protect yourself and others from getting syphilis by wearing a condom for all kinds of sex, including oral, vaginal and anal sex.
If you have unprotected sex – even oral sex alone, or if you have any symptoms, see your GP or attend a sexual health clinic to get tested as soon as possible.