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Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)
The incubation period (time between contact and the appearance of the first symptoms) varies somewhat between 10 and 90 days. Symptoms of syphilis may pass unrecognized, or may be misinterpreted…at times there are no initial symptoms at all! When present, the clasical symptoms of syphilis manifest themselves in three stages as follows:
Approximately three to four weeks after sexual contact with an infected, contagious partner, a chancre (a superficial skin ulcer with well-defined edges and an inflamed base up to 1,0cm in diameter) may appear at the site of the microbe’s entry. The chancre is typically painless (this is in contrast with genital herpes which causes painful ulcers). There may be associated swollen lymph nodes(small painless lumps that are centers of immune system activity) in the inguinal region (groin). It is contact with such a syphilitic chancre that the infection is transmitted. This initial chancre routinely heals itself spontaneously within three to eight weeks.
If syphilis is left untreated, the infection will evolve and manifest itself, several weeks after the primary stage, with a skin and mucus membrane eruption (red lesions), fever, fatigue, headaches and muscular aches and pains. Once again, if left untreated, these symptoms will resolve on their own…but the infectious microbe remains behind. It is at this point that syphilis passes into its latent phase. This « silent period » may last for many years and permits the infection to evolve without any obvious external symptoms. At this point, the only method of detecting the presence of syphilis is via a blood test specific for syphilis.
After many years, even as long as ten to thirty years, syphilis may progress to the point where it may result in serious organ system complications including skin, bone and vital nervous system or cardiovascular system maninfestations.