Rachel Fieldhouse


“Scary and painful”: Monkeypox survivors recall their experiences

“Scary and painful”: Monkeypox survivors recall their experiences

Before suffering full-body chills, a fever and other intense flu-like symptoms, the first sign that Matt Ford had come down with monkeypox were several spots on his body.

The US man noticed the lesions after receiving a call from a friend who he’d had skin-to-skin contact with in June.

“Right after the call, I checked myself and noticed some lesions I hadn’t seen before,” the 30-year-old told 7News.com.au.

The next few days saw him experience flu-like symptoms, including a fever, chills, sweats and fatigue.

After those symptoms lessened, the number of lesions increased, with Ford counting 25 in total across his body, including his face, feet and scalp.

The lesions quickly became itchy and painful, interfering with his sleep and resulting in him needing narcotics to fall asleep.

“I don’t think many people fully understand just how painful it can be, especially if lesions appear in the perianal or genital areas,” he said.

“(The pain) was at least an eight or nine out of 10.”

Under local rules, Ford was required to isolate until “all lesions have resolved, the scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed”, ensuring he was no longer contagious.

In total, he stayed home for three weeks and was “grateful” for his support network.

“It was pretty brutal towards the end of it, and I felt pretty stir crazy,” he recalled.

“But I’m grateful to have had a strong support network checking in on me and sending care packages.”

For UK man Harun Tulunay, catching monkeypox came with a slightly different experience.

The 35-year-old primarily experienced flu-like symptoms, such as a fever of 40 C, swollen glands, a white and red rash, pain and chills.

Ten days in, Tulunay had been hospitalised and finally received a diagnosis when he noticed a lesion on his nose.

Though painful lesions in his throat made him unable to swallow, Tulunay said most didn’t cause him grief.

“I had (lesions) on my back, in my hair, on my feet, on my hands, my legs,” he told 7News.com.au.

“My whole throat was all covered in painful lesions.

“It was the most scary and painful June of my 35 years of life.”

After about 35 days, Tulunay’s symptoms had all cleared up.

“You really don’t expect it can happen to you until it happens to you,” he said.

Ford and Tulunay’s experiences come as Australia’s Chief Medical Officer, Paul Kelly, declared monkeypox a communicable disease of national significance, with most cases occurring among people aged between 21 and 40 years old.

“Although monkeypox is not usually considered a sexually transmissible infection, physical contact with an infected person during sexual intercourse carries a significant risk of transmission,” Kelly said.

“Intimate physical contact such as hugging, kissing and sexual activities represent a risk of infection, with infectious skin sores being the likely mode of transmission.”

The World Health Organisation has also declared monkeypox a public health emergency, with more than 20,000 cases recorded across 71 countries since January.

Image: Supplied

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