California man details ‘excruciatingly painful’ recovery from monkeypox to show ‘how serious it is’

Matt Ford Monkey Pox

Matt Ford Monkey Pox

Justin Clynes Studio

It took three weeks and three days before Matt Ford was allowed to leave solitary confinement after contracting monkeypox.

The 30-year-old Californian actor and writer opened up to PEOPLE about the painful experience of recovering from the rare virus, which is spreading rapidly in the United States, and why he is sharing his story with all demographics.

“There is no place or reason for shame or stigma in any of this. It can be terrible. It can be awful, but something that has helped me is remembering that it is temporary and there’s another side to it.”

Ford received a call on June 17 informing him that he had been exposed to monkeypox by someone with whom he had had prolonged contact. He immediately scanned his body and noticed that a few lesions had started to form. After self-isolating, Ford was tested at a doctor’s office and officially tested positive for monkeypox a week later before receiving a court-ordered stay-at-home warrant from the LA County Public Health Department.

During the first week, Ford experienced intense flu-like symptoms including a cough, sore throat and fever, along with chills all over his body where he says he woke up with his pillows and sheets soaked in sweat.

RELATED: What to know about Monkeypox – including how it spreads – as CDC confirms US case

Although symptoms vary between patients, he noticed that once his flu-like symptoms began to subside, other lesions began to appear on his body, numbering 25 in total.

“Obviously the [lesions] that were already in the underwear area were very, very painful and the ones on my face, but I started getting them on my chest, legs, arms, shoulders, scalp; they kind of popped up all over the place,” says Ford, noting that the lesions became “excruciatingly painful all the time” for about a week.

“And it was more painful if I moved the wrong way, if I irritated them, certain bodily functions that required movement. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. I would describe it as at least an eight or a nine out of 10,” he continues. “There are a lot of reports of people screaming, passing out, really terrible things and I felt some of that pain and I understand why. “

Being among the first cases in the United States, Ford was not prescribed the vaccines or antiviral treatments that were provided to later patients. Ford says he just had to “wait” until his symptoms cleared up.

“The only thing that really helped me with the pain was taking Epsom salt baths, so I took a lot of that on top of trying to manage the symptoms. I was maximizing the amount of Tylenol, Advil that I could take. Using a lot of creams and ointments.”

Instead of receiving a vaccine or treatment, the only medications Ford was prescribed were narcotic painkillers after his lesions became so painful that they kept him awake for several nights in a row.

Matt Ford Monkey Pox

Matt Ford Monkey Pox

Matt Ford

RELATED: WHO declares monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of ‘international concern’

Along with the physical hardships Ford has experienced during his isolation, he also said the virus has taken a toll on his mental health.

“The first two weeks I just tried to focus on getting over to the other side and trying to remember that it was temporary. It was really difficult around the two week mark, I remember because I was starting to have a crazy little fuss inside,” he admits. “I was stuck inside and in pain and it was really brutal. I feel very lucky to have a strong support system. And I was very grateful for that. But mentally it was tough. “

After weeks of symptoms and daily check-ups by medical professionals, Ford recovered from monkeypox on July 12 and his stay-at-home order was lifted. He says he feels better but reveals there have been lingering physical and mental repercussions.

“I still have pigmentation on me from where the spots were and there’s residual pain in the areas where the lesions traumatized my body. And mentally I’ve had quite intense social anxiety. .It’s a very intense thing to go through and come out of it, you feel a bit shaken.”

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Ford tells PEOPLE that although he was initially hesitant to share his story online, he wanted to draw attention to the seriousness of monkeypox, as many people in the United States are still unaware of the disease. virus and its impact.

He says he also wants to point out that while monkeypox has a big impact on gay men, it can be contracted by all demographics and people should be warned about “how painful or serious this is.” .

“There may be some stigma around this because of some of the ways it can potentially spread,” Ford said. “It’s by no means spread just through sex, it’s not classified as an STI, but it’s a major way we see it spread and has some connotations, unfortunately, like a scarlet letter script , for some people.”

He continues, “There also seems to be kind of a disconnect between the message that anyone can get this, which is true, and emphasizing that the core demographic, the vast majority of people who get, are currently gay men and a huge way we see it spread through sexual contact.And that doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

“I think we can recognize that it’s mostly gay men who are being affected right now. And it’s possible it could spread to other communities without inducing shame or stigma or labeling it a gay disease,” adds Ford.

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