What is Syphilis?


What is syphilis?

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection that can cause serious health problems if it is not treated. Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary). There are different signs and symptoms associated with each stage.

How is syphilis spread?

You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. You can find sores on or around the penis, vagina, or anus, or in the rectum, on the lips, or in the mouth. Syphilis can spread from an infected mother to her unborn baby.

What does syphilis look like?

Syphilis is divided into stages (primary, secondary, latent, and tertiary), with different signs and symptoms associated with each stage. A person with primary syphilis generally has a sore or sores at the original site of infection. These sores usually occur on or around the genitals, around the anus or in the rectum, or in or around the mouth. These sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless. Symptoms of secondary syphilis include skin rash, swollen lymph nodes, and fever. The signs and symptoms of primary and secondary syphilis can be mild, and they might not be noticed. During the latent stage, there are no signs or symptoms. Tertiary syphilis is associated with severe medical problems.  A doctor can usually diagnose tertiary syphilis with the help of multiple tests. It can affect the heart, brain, and other organs of the body.

How can I reduce my risk of getting syphilis?

The only way to avoid STDs is to not have vaginal, anal, or oral sex.

If you are sexually active, you can do the following things to lower your chances of getting syphilis:

  • Being in a long-term mutually monogamous relationship with a partner who has been tested for syphilis and does not have syphilis;
  • Using latex condoms the correct way  every time you have sex. Condoms prevent transmission of syphilis by preventing contact with a sore. Sometimes sores occur in areas not covered by a condom. Contact with these sores can still transmit syphilis.

Am I at risk for syphilis?

Any sexually active person can get syphilis through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Have an honest and open talk with your health care provider and ask whether you should be tested for syphilis or other STDs.

What are the signs and symptoms of syphilis?

Symptoms of syphilis in adults vary by stage:

Primary Stage

During the first (primary) stage of syphilis, you may notice a single sore or multiple sores. The sore is the location where syphilis entered your body. Sores are usually (but not always) firm, round, and painless. Because the sore is painless, it can easily go unnoticed. The sore usually lasts 3 to 6 weeks and heals regardless of whether or not you receive treatment. Even after the sore goes away, you must still receive treatment. This will stop your infection from moving to the secondary stage.

Secondary Stage

During the secondary stage, you may have skin rashes and/or mucous membrane lesions. Mucous membrane lesions are sores in your mouth, vagina, or anus. This stage usually starts with a rash on one or more areas of your body. The rash can show up when your primary sore is healing or several weeks after the sore has healed. The rash can look like rough, red, or reddish brown spots on the palms of your hands and/or the bottoms of your feet. The rash usually won’t itch and it is sometimes so faint that you won’t notice it. Other symptoms you may have can include fever, swollen lymph glands, sore throat, patchy hair loss, headaches, weight loss, muscle aches, and fatigue (feeling very tired). The symptoms from this stage will go away whether or not you receive treatment. Without the right treatment, your infection will move to the latent and possibly tertiary stages of syphilis.

Latent Stage

The latent stage of syphilis is a period of time when there are no visible signs or symptoms of syphilis. If you do not receive treatment, you can continue to have syphilis in your body for years without any signs or symptoms.

Can syphilis be cured?

Yes, syphilis can be cured with the right antibiotics from your health care provider. However, treatment might not undo any damage that the infection has already done.

I’ve been treated. Can I get syphilis again?

Having syphilis once does not protect you from getting it again. Even after you’ve been successfully treated, you can still be re-infected. Only laboratory tests can confirm whether you have syphilis. Follow-up testing by your health care provider is recommended to make sure that your treatment was successful.

Mononucleosis, the “kissing disease”


About Mononucleosis

Infectious mononucleosis, also called “mono,” is a contagious disease.   Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) is the most common cause of infectious mononucleosis, but other viruses can also cause this disease. It is common among teenagers and young adults, especially college students. At least 25% of teenagers and young adults who get infected with EBV will develop infectious mononucleosis.


Typical symptoms of infectious mononucleosis usually appear 4 to 6 weeks after you get infected with EBV. Symptoms may develop slowly and may not all occur at the same time.

These symptoms include—

  • extreme fatigue
  • fever
  • sore throat
  • head and body aches
  • swollen lymph glands in the neck and armpits
  • swollen liver or spleen or both
  • rash

Enlarged spleen and a swollen liver are less common symptoms. For some people, their liver or spleen or both may remain enlarged even after their fatigue ends.

Most people get better in 2 to 4 weeks; however, some people may feel fatigued for several more weeks. Occasionally, the symptoms of infectious mononucleosis can last for 6 months or longer.

Autoimmune Hepatitis

Autoimmune hepatitis (AIH) is an inflammatory disease of the liver that results in immune mediated destruction of liver cells that can result in cirrhosis, liver failure, and even death. AIH can present as an acute fulminant event or insidiously over many years, however diagnosis and treatment implementation can be delayed because of complex clinical presentations. Epidemiologic reports have solidified the observation of a female predominance, yet AIH can present in all ages and ethnic populations. Limited data regarding prevalence of AIH has estimated between 50 and 200 cases per 1 million among Caucasians from Western Europe and North America.

Blood tests to diagnose AIH/Autoimmune hepatitis include the following tests:

ANA Screen, IFA, with Reflex to Titer and Pattern; Mitochondrial Antibody with Reflex to Titer; Actin (Smooth Muscle) Antibody (IgG); Liver Kidney Microsome (LKM-1) Antibody (IgG)


How Getting the Flu May Put You at Risk of a Heart Attack

The flu can be a serious illness itself, but it may also increase the risk of having a heart attack, a new study from Canada finds.

The study found that patients’ risk of a heart attack was six times higher during the first week following a flu diagnosis, compared with their risk in the year before or the year following being sick with the flu.

The findings highlight the importance of getting a flu shot to prevent the disease, lead study author Dr. Jeff Kwong, a senior scientist at the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences, a nonprofit research organization in Ontario focused on health care issues, said in a statement. “People at risk of heart disease should take precautions to prevent respiratory infections, and especially influenza, through measures including vaccinations and handwashing.”

People who are at risk for heart disease can include those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, diabetes or obesity, as well as those who smoke, have a family history of heart disease or are age 65 or older, according to the American Heart Association (AHA). People should see their doctor to help determine their risk of heart disease, according to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute. [9 New Ways to Keep Your Heart Healthy]

The study was published today (Jan. 24) in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Previous studies have suggested a link between the flu and heart attacks, but these studies had some important limitations; for example, they did not always confirm that patients had the flu using lab tests, according to the new paper.

In the new study, the researchers analyzed information from nearly 20,000 adults in Ontario who were ages 35 and older and had a laboratory-confirmed flu diagnosis from 2009 to 2014. Of these, 332 patients were hospitalized for a heart attack in the year before, the year after or during their flu infection. About half of these patients had diabetes, 40 percent had high levels of lipids (fats) in the blood and 85 percent had high blood pressure.

The researchers then looked at the rate of heart attacks during a seven-day period when patients had the flu (called the “risk interval”), and compared that with the rate of heart attacks during the year before or the year after this risk interval (called the “control interval”).

They found that, during the risk interval, there were 20 hospitalizations for a heart attack per week; compared with only about three hospitalizations per week during the control interval. There was no increase in heart attack risk after the first week of flu illness.

“Our findings … support international guidelines that advocate for influenza immunization in those at high risk of a heart attack,” Kwong said.

The findings also suggested that the risk of heart attack tied to the flu may be particularly high for those ages 65 and older, and those infected with a type of flu virus called influenza B virus.

There are several ways that having the flu could increase the risk of a heart attack. For example, inflammation caused by the body’s immune response to the virus may make the plaque inside blood vessels unstable, which could lead to an artery blockage, according to the Harvard Health Blog. In addition, when a person has the flu, the heart may need to work harder to pump blood through the lungs, which increases the amount of stress on the heart, according to the AHA.

The researchers noted that their study only involved patients whose illness was severe enough to require going to the hospital, and it’s not clear whether patients with milder infections would also be at an increased risk for a heart attack.

Original article on Live Science.

It Looks Like the Flu, But Isn’t: What Is Adenovirus? Something new?

The flu isn’t the only virus that could leave you feeling feverish and generally miserable this winter — another virus, called adenovirus, can cause similar symptoms, although doctors don’t routinely test for it.

Adenoviruses are prolific viruses that can cause a variety of illnesses, including upper respiratory infections — such as colds — as well as pneumonia, gastrointestinal illness, conjunctivitis (pink eye) and even urinary tract infections, said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. (There are 52 strains of adenovirus, and different strains cause different illnesses.)

When a person has a respiratory infection caused by an adenovirus, “it would be really hard to tell it apart from influenza” just by looking at the patient, Adalja said. Symptoms can include fever, sore throat, cough and runny nose, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

However, unlike the flu, adenovirus doesn’t have a “striking seasonality,” Adalja told Live Science. Although outbreaks of adenovirus infections are most common in the late winter, spring and early summer, they can occur year-round, the CDC said.

In some cases, adenoviruses can cause severe respiratory symptoms, including pneumonia, particularly in patients whose immune systems are compromised, Adalja said. In 2007, an outbreak of adenovirus sickened about 140 people in four states, killing 10 patients, according to the CDC. But that fatality rate doesn’t compare to that of the flu, which can cause between 12,000 and 56,000 deaths per year, according to the CDC.

Outbreaks of adenovirus in the military led the U.S. Department of Defense to begin vaccinating military recruits against two strains of the virus in 1971, according to Medscape. When vaccine production stopped in 1996, cases of adenovirus in the military increased, as the disease spreads easily in close quarters. This re-emergence of the disease led to the reintroduction of the vaccine among recruits in 2011, Medscape reported. It’s estimated that the vaccine prevents about 15,000 cases of adenovirus infections in U.S. military recruits, according to the U.S. Army Medical Material Development Activity.

A recent study, published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, looked at adenovirus respiratory infections in nonmilitary members and concluded that the vaccine should also be considered for susceptible groups outside the military, such as those living in long-term-care facilities or college dorms.

Adalja agreed that “because [adenovirus] does cause a considerable burden of illness, we want to explore” the ability to use the vaccine outside of the military context.

For example, the vaccine may benefit people at high risk of contracting the virus, such as patients with lung disease and others with compromised immune systems, but it may even benefit the general population, Adalja said. However, future studies would be needed to examine which segments of the population would benefit most, and whether vaccination would be cost-effective, he said.

Original article on Live Science.

Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase join forces to tackle employees’ health-care costs

Amazon, JP Morgan Chase and Berkshire Hathaway announced they are joining forces to try to rein in health-care costs. The Post’s Carolyn Johnson explains.

Three giant and influential employers, Amazon, Berkshire Hathaway and JP Morgan Chase, announced Tuesday they were partnering to create an independent company aimed at reining in health-care costs for their U.S. employees.

There were almost no details available about what the company would do or how it would use technology to disrupt and simplify the complicated fabric of American health care. But there’s no doubt that the companies, which collectively employ more than 1 million workers worldwide, have a real interest in ratcheting down their spending on health care. Health-care premiums are split between employers and employees and have been growing much faster than wages.

Major health company stock prices tumbled on the news, and the announcement stirred excitement — and questions — about how the three companies could bring their clout to containing costs in the massive employer-sponsored health insurance market, which provides coverage to approximately 160 million Americans.

According to the Kaiser Family Foundation’s survey of employer health benefits, health insurance premiums have been rising faster than wages. Between 2012 and 2017, workers’ earnings grew by 12 percent, while premiums went up by 19 percent. Between 2007 and 2012, premiums increased twice as fast as workers’ earnings.

“The U.S. health-care system is unsustainable in terms of its costs, and the entire debate by political leaders — whether it is Democrats or Republicans — has focused on repairing and replacing Obamacare and the ideological differences,” said John Sculley, who formerly led Apple and Pepsi-Cola and is now chief marketing officer of RxAdvance, a health tech company. “To have three of the most respected CEOs in the world step up and say that their companies are going to work together to focus on the real issues, of how do you make the U.S. health-care system sustainable and a better delivery of service than what we have today… it’s very positive.”

The announcement comes amid rampant rumors and anticipation that Amazon could disrupt health care as it has in other industries, particularly in the business of selling prescription drugs.

A person at one of the companies who is familiar with the matter said that this is day one of the joint venture and that specific plans will take shape over time. The person said that the joint venture is not currently expected to be a new health insurance company or a hospital or a pharmaceutical company, but a company that can bring technology tools to bear on making health care more transparent, affordable and simple. The person warned that could change.

“The ballooning costs of healthcare act as a hungry tapeworm on the American economy. Our group does not come to this problem with answers. But we also do not accept it as inevitable,” Warren Buffett, Berkshire Hathaway chairman, said in a statement.

This isn’t the first time big employers have tried to tackle health-care costs. Two years ago, 20 major companies including Verizon, American Express, IBM and Shell Oil joined in a Health Transformation Alliance to improve the way health care is purchased for employees. Mercer, a human resources consulting firm, runs several collectives of employers that join forces to purchase prescription drugs, using the extra leverage from having a larger group to wring better prices.

Brian Marcotte, president of the National Business Group on Health, said that one of the problems of employer purchasing coalitions is that the existing health-care market remains very centered on the providers. The new effort, he said, might be able to change that.

“When you think about the collective resources of these three companies, with Amazon’s customer obsession and supply-chain savvy, there’s an ability to create a more consumer-focused model,” Marcotte said.

Amazon, with 541,900 employees globally as of October, is known for transforming industries. For months, rumors that it could enter health care have sent shudders through the stock prices of companies whose business models might be threatened. Some see the biggest health-care deal in years — a merger between CVS and Aetna announced last year — as partially fueled by the threat that Amazon could start selling drugs.

Amazon, already one of the country’s largest employers, has been expanding. Last year, the company announced plans to hire 50,000 warehouse workers, staging a one-day blitz dubbed “Amazon jobs day.” The company is also scouting sites for a second North American headquarters, where it plans to employ as many as 50,000 full-time workers, many of them in high-paying office jobs.

Berkshire Hathaway is an Omaha-based conglomerate employing approximately 367,700 employees across a variety of industries including insurance, candy manufacturing, electric utilities, newspapers, fractional jet ownership, ice cream, bricks and furniture. Its longtime chairman, Buffett, said last year at his shareholder meeting that health-care costs were a bigger impediment to American competitiveness than taxes.

“Medical costs — which are borne to a great extent by business — have gone from 5 percent to 17 percent” of the economy since 1960, Buffett said. “Our health costs have gone up incredibly and will go up a lot more.”

The holding company is one of the most valuable in the world, as measured by market capitalization. Berkshire Hathaway earned $24 billion in net profit in 2016 and has more than $100 billion in cash on hand.

JPMorgan Chase is the largest bank in the country with more than $2 trillion in assets and what its chief executive, Jamie Dimon, calls a “fortress” balance sheet. It is unclear what specific expertise the bank will bring to the effort, but the company has a lot at stake in reining in health-care spending. The company last year spent $1.25 billion on medical benefits for 300,000 U.S. employees and family members.

As the head of the powerful Business Roundtable, Dimon emerged as one of the most vocal and visible chief executives pushing for changes to the corporate tax code last year. But he has not spoken as often or as forcefully about the problems in the health-care system, mentioning it only briefly in his annual letter to shareholders last April.

“Our nation’s healthcare costs are essentially twice as much per person vs. most other developed nations,” Dimon said.

The independent company would be jointly led by executives from all three companies, although a chief executive has not yet been announced. It will be free from the need to deliver a profit. Todd Combs, an investment officer of Berkshire Hathaway, Marvelle Sullivan Berchtold, a managing director of JPMorgan Chase and Beth Galetti, a senior vice president at Amazon will manage the company in its early stages.

The vague details about what the company will do to contain health spending raise more questions than they answer, said Benjamin Gomes-Casseres, a professor of strategy at Brandeis University International Business School.

“They are all companies who know well about profit. Their expertise is managing profit in their core operations. If it does what they want to do, which is lower health care costs for employees, that goes to their bottom line — lowering the health-care costs of employees lowers the cost of employment,” Gomes-Casseres said.

Whether and how that will benefit employees directly — and whether solutions the company develops will scale and be a model that could be used by other employers — remains uncertain, he said.

“The healthcare system is complex, and we enter into this challenge open-eyed about the degree of difficulty,” Jeffrey P. Bezos, Amazon founder said in a statement. “Hard as it might be, reducing healthcare’s burden on the economy while improving outcomes for employees and their families would be worth the effort. Success is going to require talented experts, a beginner’s mind, and a long-term orientation.”

(Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, is owner of The Washington Post.)

What is plasma?


Plasma is the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed. It is the single largest component of human blood, comprising about 55 percent, and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins.

  • Composed of 90% water, plasma is a transporting medium for cells and a variety of substances vital to the human body.
  • Plasma carries out a variety of functions in the body, including clotting blood, fighting diseases and other critical functions.
  • Source plasma is plasma that is collected from healthy, voluntary donors through a process called plasmapheresis and is used exclusively for further manufacturing into final therapies (fractionation). Source plasma donors may be compensated for their time and effort.
  • Recovered plasma is collected through whole blood donation in which plasma is separated from its cellular components. Recovered plasma may be used for fractionation

    Importance of Donation

    Only a small number of people living in the U.S. who are eligible to donate blood or source plasma actually donate. What’s important is that we encourage all forms of donation from those who are eligible, so that they may contribute life-saving blood and source plasma to those in need.

       Specialty types of Donations

Specialty types of donations are also needed to assist the Research and Diagnostic communities come up with positive controls for test kits.  Some centers have special licenses with the FDA to allow those with otherwise deferral conditions to still donate while helping others.  Without these “specialty” donations the very test kits that are available currently run the risk of going on back order making it harder for your healthcare provider, clinic or hospital to do the necessary testing to conclude a proper diagnosis and begin treatment.  These donations are done the same way as “normal” healthy donors, but your plasma would not be being used for transfusion but for research.

‘Many more weeks’ to come in fierce, deadly flu season, CDC says

(CNN)This year’s seemingly unyielding flu season continues to ravage the entire continental United States, as health authorities track additional deaths and hospitalizations — and there’s more of the season left.

Influenza activity continues to be widespread in all states except Hawaii, according to the weekly flu reportreleased Friday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
All while, based on the latest data, the flu season has not even peaked yet, said Kristen Nordlund, a spokeswoman for the CDC.
“Hopefully we’re in the peak currently, since the data is a week behind, or that it peaks soon. Regardless, there is a lot of flu activity happening across the country and likely many more weeks to come,” Nordlund said.
The deaths of seven more children were reported this week, bringing the total number of pediatric deaths for the season, which began in October, to 37.
There were 11,965 laboratory-confirmed flu-related hospitalizations reported from October 1 to January 20. The number of people infected with influenza could be much higher because not everyone goes to their doctor when they are sick nor do doctors test every patient.
Additionally, there were 41.9 hospitalizations for every 100,000 people. That’s an increase from the week before on par with the increases the CDC has noticed from week to week for the past couple of weeks.
Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses that infect the nose, throat, and sometimes the lungs. Flu can cause mild to severe illness, but also turn deadly.
“It’s still not too late to get vaccinated, as we’re starting to see some increase in Influenza A H1N1 and Influenza B activity,” she said, adding that if you think you have flu or if you are at a high risk for complications from flu, it is important to seek care early.
“Influenza antiviral treatment is recommended as early as possible for people at high risk, which includes children younger than age 5 but especially less than age 2, adults age 65 and over, pregnant women, and people with underlying medical conditions such as lung disease, heart disease and diabetes — in children, a big category includes those with neurologic or developmental disorders,” she said.

Flu is everywhere, may be declining in the West

Over the past 15 flu seasons, the current season is the first time all states in the entire continental US have reported widespread flu activity during the same week, according to the CDC.
During a call with reporters on Friday, Dr. Daniel Jernigan, director of the influenza division in the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Disease at CDC, pointed to two notable characteristics of this flu season.
“The first is that flu activity became widespread within almost all states and jurisdictions at the same time. The second notable characteristic is that flu activity has now stayed at the same level at the national level for three weeks in a row with 49 states reporting widespread activity each week for three weeks,” he said. “We often see different parts of the country light up at different times, but for the past three weeks the entire country has been experiencing lots of flu all at the same time.”
From New York to California, health care providers and state officials are taking matters into their own hands to do what they can to protect their patients and residents.
“We are certainly seeing the impact of flu at our hospital locally,” said Dr. Patricia Whitley-Williams, professor and chief of the division of pediatric allergy, immunology, and infectious diseases at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order on Thursday allowing pharmacists to administer flu shots to children between the ages of 2 and 16. In addition, insurers have been asked to waive pre-authorization requirements for antiviral medications within the first 48 hours of illness.
Over the past week, the state has diagnosed a record high number of flu cases and hospitalizations, with 1,759 New Yorkers being hospitalized with confirmed flu, according to Cuomo’s office.
Schools in Gulf County, Florida closed Friday due to “a significant impact from influenza-like cases” among students and staff, according to an announcement from the superintendent of Gulf County Schools, on the school district’s Facebook page.
Schools in Gunter, Texas closed “due to widespread flu and illness” for an entire week and reopened on Wednesday, according to an announcement from the Gunter Independent School District’s superintendent. The school district closed after 253 student absences, with the majority being due to either confirmed flu or flu-like symptoms.
While there’s not one state in particular seeing the worst or higher flu activity than others, “we are seeing some signs that flu is on the decline in the West,” CDC’s Nordlund said.
During the call with reporters, Jernigan said, “we have several more weeks of flu to go, however, we have some signs that flu activity may have peaked in some parts of the country. California and other states on the West Coast are seeing activity begin to go down.”

A New Way to Thwart Disease-Spreading Mosquitoes

HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, Jan. 29, 2018 (HealthDay News) — It sounds like science fiction, but researchers say they have taken the first step toward creating female mosquitoes that don’t bite and spread disease.

They identified 902 genes related to blood feeding and 478 genes linked to non-blood feeding from the mosquito species Wyeomyia smithii.

Found in swamps and bogs along the east coast of North America, they are commonly called pitcher plant mosquitoes, because they live in the waterof pitcher plants until adulthood.

The method used to isolate the genes in this species of mosquitoes will now be used to identify non-biting genes in other species, said the authors of the study.

“The spread of blood-borne diseases by mosquitoes relies on their taking a blood meal; if there is no bite, there is no disease transmission,” said researcher John Colbourne, chairman of environmental genomics at the University of Birmingham in England.

Female mosquitoes are the blood-feeders; males feed on nectar.

“Our research is important as it provides a unique starting point to determine if there are universal nonbiting genes in mosquitoes that could be manipulated as a means to control vector-borne disease,” Colbourne explained in a university news release.

In the lab, scientists examined more than 21,600 potential genes in the pitcher plant mosquito for more than seven generations. By comparing their genes with those from outside mosquito populations that either bite or don’t bite, the investigators zeroed in on 1,380 genes that appear to directly affect that behavior.

The next species targeted for research are: the common house mosquito (Culex pipiens), which spreads encephalitis diseases, West Nile virus and heartworm; the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), which is spreading rapidly in the United States and carries viruses such as dengue, Zika and yellow fever; and the African malaria mosquito (Anopheles gambiae).

“We’ll see what comparable genes pop out of these other species and identify commonalities,” study researcher William Bradshaw said in the news release. He’s a principal investigator with the University of Oregon’s Institute of Ecology and Evolution.

The findings were published recently in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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