Monkeypox is on the rise in urban areas, and while it does not spread as easily or quickly as COVID-19, patients of the skin virus report similar painful symptoms.
Matt Ford, an actor who has lived in both New York City and Los Angeles, recently detailed his experience with monkeypox in a column for Newsweek. According to Ford, he was not worried about the novel virus beyond mere “inconvenience” when a friend told him he would likely get sick soon.
“I had been told by a friend that I’d likely been exposed to monkeypox,” the actor explained. “I was shocked. But after reading it would take me at least two weeks to recover, my main concern was the fun I’d be missing out on. I was due to fly to New York to host some events for the city’s LGBT Pride March. Plus, the July 4th weekend was coming up. I wasn’t concerned with the pain or the symptoms yet. I think I was overconfident, or underestimated how severe it could be.”
After a day or two of feeling lethargic, Ford noticed skin lesions beginning to appear all over his body. By day three of the infection, he felt very sick.
“I developed intense flu-like symptoms which ramped up over the following five days. I had a fever, cough, sore throat, full-body chills and night sweats,” Ford recalled. “Then, I was issued a court order to stay at home. It didn’t detail a date when I can leave my house. But it meant I had to stay in isolation until each of my lesions had fallen off, with fresh skin underneath.”
Much of society is still reeling from the encroachment of civil liberties during the COVID-19 pandemic, leading to less patience for monkeypox fears
The next week and a half were a waiting game for Ford — developing new lesions, waiting for them to scab over and fall off, then hoping no more would appear. The pain caused him to seek prescription medication to help sleep at night. He said the diagnosis stemmed from skin-on-skin contact with another infected patient.
“When all my spots fully scab over and fall off I won’t have to isolate anymore—but being alone is becoming more and more difficult,” he wrote on July 7th, more than three weeks into the ordeal. “On Friday July 1st, things felt really tough. It was two weeks since I learned I had been exposed to the virus and I was still isolating. It’s a much longer game than COVID-19 in terms of isolation, and quarantine can drive you crazy.”
Ford also touched upon a mental aspect to the disease; specifically, the stigma surrounding it, considering that most patients so far have been gay men. As a result, the common perception is that it is a sexually transmitted disease only in the gay community, but the virus can spread with any human contact.
“I was on the fence at the beginning, because there is a sense of shame that can creep in or a sense of stigma. There are internet trolls who have called monkeypox a ‘gay disease’ and used it as a target or opportunity to put others down,” he said. But if I were to predict what might happen with monkeypox, I would say that it’s likely going to be miserable for a lot of people, [but that’s it.]
“I do not think it’s going to cause the same damage as COVID-19, or stop society.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are more than 700 monkeypox cases in 37 U.S. states. The Biden administration last week announced plans to distribute up to 144,00 more doses of the Jynneos vaccine in an effort to combat the recent spike of cases.