Yaws is a highly contagious skin disease caused by the bacteria treponema pallidum – pertenue characterized by recurrent appearance of nodules, cauliflower like lumps on the skin that can spread through the blood stream to the bone, and sinuses.

Where does it occur?

It occurs predominantly in primitive and rural areas of equatorial and Western Africa. Scattered areas of infection have also been reported from Latin America, Caribbean islands, India, Southeast Asia and the South Pacific Islands.

How is it transmitted?

It is transmitted when traumatized skin comes in direct contact with lesions of infected people. It can be transmitted indirectly by objects contaminated with infected secretions or by flies.

Is it contagious from person to person?

It is contagious from person to person.

What is the risk for travelers?

The risk is generally low.

How soon after exposure will one develop symptoms?

Initial symptoms usually develop within 2-5 weeks after exposure. The late stages of sinus and bone involvement can develop 5-10 years later.

What are the signs and symptoms?

Symptoms usually start with small lump like lesion on the arms or more commonly on the legs and enlarge to a cauliflower like or even a raspberry like lesion. The lesions can be present for months and eventually heal on their own. These lesions reappear in clusters over the whole body months later and, this cycle can repeat multiple times. The bacteria can spread to the bones during these repeat outbreaks and be evident involving the fingers, shins and sinuses.

Years later, skin lesions take the form of plaques, thickening of the skin of the palms and soles and lesions involving the bones of legs, sternum and skull.

Are there any lab tests to diagnose the illness?

Diagnosis is made by direct microscopic visualization of the bacteria in skin ulcers or by indirect serology tests.

Is there any treatment?

Penicillin antibiotic is the medication of choice.

What preventive measures can be taken?

Avoid coming in to direct contact with individuals who have open sores or skin lesions.

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