As many across the nation acclimate to a new normal given the still ongoing global pandemic, reports have spread about another virus. Over the past month, cases of monkeypox have spread through various countries. In what some have lambasted as a public health failure, information relating to the outbreaks has been scarce and typically centered around men who have sex with men. The virus is not sexuality specific, but current reports have centered around gay and bisexual men. As numbers rise, and some foresee a coming increase with the travel and large crowds brought on by Pride season, many have turned to social media to share information and experiences.
“I was hesitant about tweeting about it at first because it can be really embarrassing,” Matt Ford an actor, director, and party host tells Out. Ford tweeted about his experience with monkeypox late last week. “You have all these spots all over you. It’s a disease that doesn’t sound cute, it doesn’t look cute. It’s not hard to imagine the stigma.”
His tweets have racked up over 15,000 likes.
“I decided to speak out because, primarily I was worried with Pride coming,” he says. “I was like we’re all getting it. It’s [sort of] exploding under the radar and other gays haven’t noticed yet and they are all going to go to pride in new york and there’s going to be an explosion of cases with people who aren’t aware of it.”
Ford believes he contracted the virus through skin-to-skin contact and said that on June 17 he first experienced symptoms in the form of a few spots on his body. Over the next few days, other flu-like symptoms began to appear rapidly and intensely including chills, a sore throat, coughing, and heavy sweating through the night. While those symptoms faded within a few days, more lesions began to appear.
“What I really want people to know is that some cases are mild but some are very painful and it seems to be very arbitrary in that regard and in a lot of cases, a lot of spots appear after the flu-like symptoms go away,” he says.
The lesions brought with them itching and site-specific pain. After they first appeared, Ford went to the doctor to be tested and the results took days to come back confirming the diagnosis. While doctors prescribed him pain medication as well as creams to deal with the pain and irritation — there have been multiple reports of lesions occurring in sensitive areas (like in the mouth or around the rectum) and becoming particularly painful — he was not given any medication to cure monkeypox. This tracks with personal reports from Dr. Jon Dykens, who has been posting about his own experience on social media as well.
“I’m super frustrated about this and a lot of people that I know are, but my understanding is there’s this medicine that’s commonly known as T Poxx and it's a drug that was created to treat smallpox and monkeypox,” Ford says, referring to Tecrovirimat. According to the CDC website, the medication is not approved by the FDA for monkeypox though it is approved for smallpox. “I have a couple of friends who have been successful in getting it. They had to fight really hard and be signed up for a trial through a doctor in order to get it and apparently it’s helped. I didn’t fight that hard for it because I didn’t want to deal with it but now I’m kind of regretting that because I still have new spots popping up so I sent a message to my doctor.”
Those who have contracted monkeypox are considered contagious as long as they have lesions and must quarantine until all lesions have scabbed over, fallen off, and new skin has grown over the spots. The virus can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact, coming into contact with objects that have come into contact with lesions, and through respiratory droplets of an infected person. Most cases last from two to four weeks. Some states, like California, have taken to sending court orders mandating that those who test positive quarantine.
News about possible monkeypox vaccines is slowly circulating but is proving just as frustrating. Late last week, the New York’s Department of Health announced that vaccinations were available for men who have sex with men. According to reports on social media, the CDC only gave the department 1,000 doses, all of which were spoken for in the span of a few hours. Reports have also indicated that vaccinations are being offered in similarly small numbers in other major U.S. cities, but no large-scale rollout has been revealed publicly. Internationally, Montreal rolled out a plan to vaccinate all men who have sex with men.