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Public Health Alert Issued by LCO Health Department

Updated: May 1

By Dr. Steve Miszkiewski

LCO Chief Medical Doctor

LCO Community Health Center


The clinic met with the State of Wisconsin Surveillance Team and Sawyer County Public Health Department this week to address the Syphilis outbreak here in Sawyer county. We have been since last summer testing all patients at risk for Syphilis and not surprisingly, the County has the highest rate in the state. This infection has serious consequences if left untreated and can be unnoticed in some people. It is detected with a simple blood test. We will begin with our own Disease Investigation Specialist to help stop the spread and treat those infected with this bacterium.


Attention Community Members:


We met with the state and the county this week regarding the rising cases of syphilis in the area. This infection can cause serious health risks, but is treatable. If you would like to be tested please contact the LCO Community Health Center at (715)638-5100. We will provide complete, confidential, and non-judgmental care. If you would like to call and speak to a professional we are here for you.


Below are risk factors that contribute to a greater potential of contracting syphilis

BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO:


Males having sex with other males

Person with any STI

Person with multiple sex partners

Person having sex with another person who has multiple sex partners

Person using social media apps to find new sex partners

Person with a new sex partner

Using drugs (alcohol, meth, heroin, etc.) OR having sex with a person who uses drugs.

Persons trading sex for money or drugs


Please see additional information below about this disease.


Other testing sites:

Essentia Health: (715)634-5505

Northlakes Clinic: (715)634-2541

Marshfield Clinic: (715)634-6520


What is syphilis?


Syphilis is an infection that you can catch during sex. Infections that you can catch during sex are called "sexually transmitted infections." It is also possible for a pregnant person to give syphilis to their baby.

Syphilis has different stages:

●Primary syphilis

●Secondary syphilis

●Latent syphilis

●Tertiary syphilis

In some cases, the infection moves to the brain, ears, or eyes. This can happen in any of the stages of syphilis.


What are the symptoms of primary syphilis?


Primary syphilis is the first stage of infection. Symptoms start 2 to 3 weeks after the person becomes infected. At that time, the person usually gets a raised red bump on the spot where the infection first entered the body. This bump is usually painless. Eventually it turns into a small sore (or ulcer) with a raised edge.


The sores caused by syphilis usually form on the penis or around the vagina or anus. But they can also form in places that are hard to see, such as the back of the throat or inside the vagina or rectum.


Sores caused by primary syphilis usually heal on their own within a few weeks. Since they usually don't hurt, many people don't get treatment for them.


What are the symptoms of secondary syphilis?


Secondary syphilis is the second stage of infection. It starts weeks or a few months after primary syphilis and happens in about 25 percent of people who don't get treatment for their primary syphilis.


Symptoms of secondary syphilis include:

●A widespread rash

●Large, raised, gray or white patches on warm, moist areas of the body (such as the mouth and genitals)

●Fever

●Headache

●Sore throat, muscle aches, and other flu-like symptoms

●Weight loss

●Swollen lymph nodes in the neck, armpit, and groin area (lymph nodes are bean-shaped organs scattered throughout the body that store infection-fighting cells)


What are the symptoms of latent syphilis?


Latent syphilis is a period of time when syphilis is not causing any symptoms. It is divided into:


●"Early latent" syphilis – This is when the person got infected within the last year.

●"Late latent" syphilis – This is when the person has been infected for more than a year.

Sometimes, a person might not know exactly when they got infected. People with latent syphilis can have the infection for years without knowing it.


What are the symptoms of tertiary syphilis?


People with tertiary syphilis usually develop symptoms years after getting infected. This happens in a small number of people who do not get treatment.


People with tertiary syphilis can have damage to the heart, skin, brain, and other organs.


What is neurosyphilis?


"Neurosyphilis" is the term for a syphilis infection that has moved into the brain, the spinal cord, or the tissues that surround both. Neurosyphilis can happen during any of the stages of syphilis. Symptoms of it include:


●Headache

●Confusion

●Nausea and vomiting

●Stiff neck


If your doctor suspects you have neurosyphilis, you might need a test called a "lumbar puncture," sometimes called a "spinal tap." For this test, the doctor takes a small sample of fluid from the space around the spinal cord. Then the fluid is tested for the bacteria that cause syphilis.


What are ocular syphilis and otosyphilis?


"Ocular syphilis" is when the infection affects the eyes. "Otosyphilis" is when it affects the ears. If syphilis involves the eyes or ears, it can cause vision or hearing problems. This can happen in anyone with syphilis, but might be more common in people who also have HIV infection.


Is there a test for syphilis?


Yes. Your doctor can order blood tests to find out if you have syphilis.


Should I see a doctor or nurse?


You should see a doctor or nurse if you have symptoms of syphilis, or if any of your sexual partners have been diagnosed with syphilis. Doctors also recommend that people who are at high risk for syphilis get tested regularly.


If you see a doctor or nurse to be checked for syphilis, they might want to test you for other sexually transmitted infections, too. That's because people who get one type of sexually transmitted infection are often at risk for other types.


Even if you have no symptoms, it's still possible that you could be infected. If you are infected, there are treatments to cure syphilis.


How is syphilis treated?


Syphilis is usually treated with an antibiotic called penicillin. The amount of time a person must take penicillin depends on what stage of infection they are in. Most people can get a penicillin shot, but some people need to get the medicine through a thin tube that goes into a vein, called an "IV." People who are allergic to penicillin usually get a different antibiotic.


After finishing treatment, most people need follow-up testing to make sure they are cured. Some people need to get multiple blood tests over a few years.


Can syphilis be prevented?


You can reduce your chances of getting syphilis by:


●Using a latex condom every time you have sex

●Avoiding sex when you or your partner has any symptoms that could be caused by an infection

●Practice monogamy. Have sex with only one person and talk with your partner about only having sex with each other.

  • Get tested for sexually transmitted infections including syphilis before sex with every new partner.

  • The safest way to prevent any Sexually Transmitted Disease is abstinence.