Syphilis- Dr. Acky Friedman
Over the course of history, many have fallen victim to this disease. The disease had no separation between classes, professions, or locations on the political map. We have historical evidence about men but almost no evidence about women who were sick with the disease, but there is no doubt that there were also women who had it. The most well-known celebrities in the world that were probably sick with or died from the disease include Napoleon Bonaparte, Henry VIII, Nietzsche, Tolstoy, Van Gogh, Schubert, Randolph Churchill (Winston Churchill’s father and a politician himself) and Adolf Hitler.
Syphilis is a bacterium that can be transmitted during sexual intercourse, resulting in various clinical signs that sometimes resemble other diseases. There is also a possibility that a sick pregnant mother will infect the fetus, and in these cases there may by signs of the disease in the fetus in a condition referred to as “Congenital Syphilis”
Since the disease has a long history and widespread impact, it also had various names over time. The Italians and Germans called it the “French Disease,” the French called it “the Italian Disease”- the Dutch “Spanish Disease” and the Turks – the “Christian Disease”. These names point toward conquests, soldiers, or foreign sailors, which the locals believed were responsible for the spreading of the disease in their country, probably through local prostitutes.
Before antibiotics, the disease would disperse over several decades in its four stages.
Phases in the development of syphilis
In its first phase, it is usually an unpainful ulcer in the genital that lasts for a week and disappears with or without treatment. Two years later, there may be a characterized rash (this is where the historical connection between skin diseases and sexually transmitted diseases began). With lack of treatment and after decades, the third phase may occur, where there is visible damage to blood vessels, expansion of heart atria and heart failure. In the late phase (fourth), there is damage to the nervous system and phenomena of temporary insanity. There is a belief that the unpredictable behavior of Idi Amin, former president of Uganda, was influenced by his sickness of Syphilis for many years.
In Israel, the disease was controlled and almost vanished up to the beginning of the 90s.
Large migrations of infected populations caused its return and flourishing in the country. Fortunately, this is a disease that’s easily treated – administering antibiotics. This treatment is extremely efficient at the beginning of the disease, but may also prove effective for those who weren’t treated in the first phase and even those in the more advanced phases.
In conclusion, it is necessary to identify, diagnose, and treat this disease as early as possible to avoid the later implications of this disease.