My son asked if taking mercury, as the guy does in the show, really did cure it. Good question, I said. I didn't think so - it might have helped a little, but there was always the risk that the mercury would kill the patient before the disease. I had to double check, but I think my summary was right. See this article from 1990, but there are several around discussing the many centuries of attempting to use mercury successfully.
Anyway, that's by way of background to some startling bad news from my home State:
In the last six years, six babies have died in the state from syphilis — a sexually transmitted disease that was nearly eradicated in the early 2000s.It is, unfortunately, centred on the aboriginal communities in the north:
In 2008, two cases were diagnosed in Queensland, and in the decade since, more than 1,100 other cases have been recorded in the north of the state, with about 200 new presentations each year.
The numbers continue to grow, despite penicillin being a cheap and effective cure.
Cairns sexual health clinician Dr Darren Russell works in the epicentre of the outbreak and said it was "out of control".
The outbreak started in the Indigenous community of Doomadgee, on the Gulf of Carpentaria, in 2011 with a handful of cases.I thought that it was at least one of the more obvious diseases to have realised you have caught, but according to this health worker:
At the time, sexual health services across Queensland were cut by the Campbell Newman-led Queensland government, and health workers claimed the opportunity to stop the escalation was missed.
The number of cases quickly spiralled out of control because of the transient nature of people in Indigenous communities, and the outbreak spread across Queensland, into the Northern Territory, and into South and Western Australia.
Aboriginal Health worker Neville Reys from Wuchopperen Health, said testing — and therefore treatment — was hindered because of shame and stigma.Well, now that I double check the timing, I see that the first, painless chancre can take 10 days to 3 weeks to appear, and particularly in women, may be internal and not noticed. The secondary rash can take 2 to 10 weeks after the chancre. So, yeah, that is getting close to 6 months if the primary indication is missed. I would assume, however, that most men who have it for more than a few months have ignored the sore on their penis.
"Syphilis can draw out up to six months before you really realise that you have got it, and in that timeline there's lots of sexual activity, so it can be spread around really easily."
Still, its appalling that the disease has been spreading so widely without successful public health intervention.