Although it didn’t have the horrendous mortality of the bubonic plague, its symptoms were painful and repulsive – the appearance of genital sores, followed by foul abscesses and ulcers over the rest of the body and severe pains.
The remedies were few and hardly efficacious, the mercury inunctions and suffumigations that people endured were painful and many patients died of mercury poisoning.
But they did not lose everything – syphilis went with them.
By the end of 1495 the epidemic had spread throughout France, Switzerland and Germany, and reached England and Scotland in 1497.
In August 1495 the Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I proclaimed that nothing like this disease had been seen before and that it was punishment from God for blasphemy.
By 1500 syphilis had reached the Scandinavian countries, Britain, Hungary, Greece, Poland and Russia.
In Vietnam 90% of STD cases were due to gonorrhoea and slightly over 1% were due to syphilis.
 Johannis (Giovanni) de Vigo, an Italian surgeon who was appointed as surgeon to Pope Julius II, wrote about the contagiousness of the disease, its origin from sexual intercourse with an infected person and its rapid dissemination throughout the body in De Morbo Gallicus, 1514, the fifth book of his work Practica in arte chirurgica copiosa.
He accurately described the primary chancre, the secondary eruption of rash, ulcers and pustules, the terrible night bone pains and the late “tumours of scirrhus hardness”.
In 1934 a new hypothesis was put forward, that syphilis had previously existed in the Old World before Columbus.
I In the 1980’s palaeopathological studies found possible evidence that supported this hypothesis and that syphilis was an old treponeal disease which in the late 15th century had suddenly evolved to become different and more virulent.