Syphilis is a bacterial infection most often spread by sexual contact. It begins as a painless sore typically on the genitals, rectum or mouth. It can also be transmitted or passed to another person by kissing an affected individual with an open or active sore or lesion. Syphilis occurs in stages but the symptoms vary and don't always occur in the same order. The sore is often in a hidden area so may not be noticed and usually heals itself within 6 weeks, this stage is called primary syphilis. Secondary syphilis occurs within a few weeks after the original sore heals. Symptoms often include a whole body rash which covers the palms of hands and soles of feet as well. It is usually not itchy and sometimes fever, sore throat and muscle aches occur as well. These symptoms may heal within a few weeks or come and go for up to a year. If a person is not treated for syphilis, the condition then goes into a latent (or hidden) phase which can last for many years. At this point, symptoms may never return or in 15-30% of untreated people, the disease will progress to the late stage (or tertiary stage). The disease can then damage the brain, heart, nerves, eyes, liver, bones and joints. Risk factors include having multiple sexual partners, being HIV positive, and recreational drug use. Syphilis can be detected through a blood test, fluid sample from the sore itself, or by spinal tap which takes a sample of fluid from the spinal cord. When diagnosed in the early stages, syphilis can easily be cured with the antibiotic, penicillin. As the disease progresses, other treatments may be needed. Since it is possible to be infected with syphilis and not know it, all pregnant women should be tested for the disease since it can be passed to an unborn child and can cause serious, even life-threatening problems at birth (please also visit: Congenital syphilis).