A sexually transmitted disease caused by a spirochete bacteria,Treponema pallidum. Between 10 days and three months after sexual contact with an infected person, the primary sore of syphilis, called the chancre, appears at the spot the bacteria invaded the body, usually the cervix, the vagina, the inner lips, the shaft and glans or the urinary meatus. This chancre does not cause pain, so unless a woman does vaginal self examination, she may not see it. Whether treated or not, the chancre goes away in one to five weeks. About six weeks after the chancre appears the secondary phase is marked by an all over skin rash. A general feeling of ill health may be present. These symptoms clear up in two to six weeks. The person is still infectious to other people for a year, and a pregnant woman can infect her unborn child. The disease remains in a hidden state. About one-third of the people who are untreated develop the complications of late syphilis, causing heart disease, paralysis or insanity.

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