Perspective

Social Diseases 2 (Syphilis; aka The Great Impostor aka French Disease aka Black Lion)

The scene The sun had taken its nightly rest, the moon smiled upon the river and the stars danced playfully in the moonlit sky, radiant in their glory. It is yet the end of another day, the setting was perfect to rest the body, spirit and soul, but not for Mr ZYX whose whole being is in turmoil over some sores on his male organ which initially started as painless. He is quite certain that his ‘’enemies’’ are at work, probably because of the neighbourhood land tussle he is involved in, probably because he drank too little of a supposed ‘’protective concoction’’, so so many ‘’probables’’ but he never linked it with an unprotected sexual exposure he had a few weeks earlier!

What it is

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection caused by a bacteria known as Treponema pallidum.
It is solely a human pathogen and does not naturally occur in other species.

Historical Angle

According to Wikipedia, the exact origin of the disease is unknown. There are two primary hypotheses: one proposes that syphilis was carried to Europe from the Americas by the crew of Christopher Columbus as a by product of the Columbian exchange, while the other proposes that syphilis previously existed in Europe but went unrecognized. These are referred to as the “Columbian” and “pre-Columbian” hypotheses. The first written records of an outbreak of syphilis in Europe occurred in 1494/1495 in Naples, Italy, during a French invasion. Because it was spread by returning French troops, the disease was known as “French disease”, and it was not until 1530 that the term “syphilis” was first applied by the Italian physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro. The causative organism, Treponema pallidum, was first identified by Fritz Schaudinn and Erich Hoffmann in 1905. The first effective treatment (Salvarsan) was developed in 1910 by Sahachirō Hata ,which was followed by the introduction of penicillin in 1943. The name “syphilis” was coined by the Italian physician and poet Girolamo Fracastoro in his pastoral noted poem, written in Latin, titled Syphilis sive morbus gallicus (Latin for “Syphilis or The French Disease”) in 1530. The protagonist of the poem is a shepherd named Syphilus (perhaps a variant spelling of Sipylus, a character in Ovid’s Metamorphoses). Syphilus is presented as the first man to contract the disease, sent by the god Apollo as punishment for the defiance that Syphilus and his followers had shown him.

Transmission

Syphilis is transmitted primarily by sexual contact or during pregnancy from a mother to her fetus; the spirochete is able to pass through intact mucous membranes or compromised skin. It is thus transmissible by kissing near a lesion, as well as oral, vaginal, and anal sex. Syphilis can also be transmitted by blood products, if not properly screened. It is not generally possible to contract syphilis through toilet seats, daily activities, hot tubs, or sharing eating utensils or clothing. This is mainly because the bacteria die very quickly outside of the body, making transmission by objects extremely difficult

What gives it away

If untreated, it progresses through 4 stages: primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary. It is most infective in the first 2 stages. Tertiary syphilis is however the most devastating.

Primary Syphilis

The primary stage of syphilis occurs about 3-4 weeks after infection with the bacteria. It begins with a small, round sore called a chancre. A chancre is painless, but it’s highly infectious. This sore may appear wherever the bacteria entered your body, such as on or inside your mouth, genitals, or rectum. On average, the sore shows up around 3 weeks after infection, but it can take between 10 and 90 days to appear. The sore remains for anywhere between 2-6 weeks. Syphilis is transmitted by direct contact with a sore. This usually occurs during sexual activity, including oral sex.

Secondary Syphilis

During this stage, one may experience skin rashes and a sore throat. The rash won’t itch and is usually found on the palms and soles, but it may occur anywhere on the body. Some people don’t notice the rash before it goes away. Other symptoms of secondary syphilis may include: headaches, swollen lymph glands, fatigue, fever, weight loss, hair loss, aching joints. These symptoms will go away whether or not you receive treatment. However, without treatment one would still be infected. Secondary syphilis is usually mistaken for another condition.

Latent Syphilis

The third stage of syphilis is the latent or hidden stage. The primary and secondary symptoms disappear, and one won’t have any noticeable symptoms at this stage (also not contagious to others). However, the person would still be infected. The secondary symptoms can reappear, or one could remain in this stage for years before progressing to tertiary syphilis.

Tertiary Syphilis

The last stage of infection is tertiary syphilis. Approximately 15 to 30 percent of people who don’t receive treatment for syphilis will enter this stage. Tertiary syphilis can occur years or decades after you’re initially infected. Tertiary syphilis can be life-threatening. Some other potential outcomes of tertiary syphilis include: blindness, deafness, mental illness, memory loss, destruction of muscle and bone, stroke or meningitis, heart disease and neurosyphilis, which is an infection of the brain or spinal cord.

Laboratory

catch Confirmation is either via blood tests or direct visual inspection using microscopy.

Treatment

Appropriate antibiotics are given in the right doses for the different stages.

Prevention

Responsible sexual behavior is advocated as there is no vaccine available.

 

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