As the number of monkey pox cases continues to rise worldwide, some people who have become infected are sharing photos and videos on social media to raise awareness about the symptoms, show what the rash may look like, and educate others about the disease. .
A person who goes by the name Silver Steele on social media posted a photo timeline on Instagram of how his monkeypox lesions evolved over three weeks, which has since gone viral.
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The 40-year-old resident of Houston, Texas, became infected with monkey pox in early July, Steele told TODAY in an interview. Captioning the now viral collage of selfies, he wrote, “My purpose with this is not to scold anyone, but to educate.”
“Not everyone shows symptoms in the exact same way, but I’ve been told by more than one professional that my case is a ‘clinically perfect’ example and it’s being used in CDC demonstrations and medical journals,” Steele added.
It took seven to eight days for Steele’s symptoms to appear after exposure to the virus, Steele wrote in response to a comment on the Instagram post. In another comment, Steele noted that he felt “nothing” in the affected area of his face before the lesions appeared.
Steele said he first noticed a few small blisters under his mouth on July 11. Having spent the weekend on a boat, he attributed it to irritation from sunscreen or shaving. But on day three, Steele said he noticed the blisters had formed in a cluster and got bigger but wouldn’t pop, unlike typical pimples.
On July 15, Steele said he woke up with flu-like symptoms, a sore throat and tender lymph nodes. These lasted about 48 hours.
At that point, Steele said he knew he had monkey pox. “The flu-like symptoms that come with it are kind of a surefire indicator…so I went to see my doctor,” Steele said. His lesions were swabbed to test for the virus, and on July 18, his results were positive.
Steele’s lesions progressed from pimple-like bumps to large sores and crusty lesions, which he said were painful. After about two and a half weeks of illness, his lesions finally started to shrink. “The pink edges show it’s healing,” Steele said in a video that viewers updated July 28.
By August 1, his scabs had completely fallen off and he developed a new layer of skin, he said. He received permission from his doctor to return to work on August 5.
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What are the most common monkey pox symptoms?
A classic case of monkeypox usually begins with a series of early flu-like symptoms (known as a prodrome), including things like fever, fatigue, malaise, headache, muscle aches and chills, previously reported from TODAY.
Then a rash will usually appear within five days of these flu-like symptoms, but sometimes it can appear at the same time as the symptoms or without any flu-like symptoms at all, Dr. Scott Roberts, associate medical director of infection prevention for the Yale School of Medicine, previously told TODAY. As in Steele’s case, many patients have reported developing flu-like symptoms after the lesions.
Prior to the current outbreak, the rash usually started on the face and hands before spreading to the rest of the body. But studies on the current outbreak have shown that lesions around the anus, genitals, mouth and throat (as well as other parts of the body) often come first and don’t always spread to other parts of the body.
The rash itself usually begins as a flat, red discoloration of the skin that then turns into a firm, raised bump that may look like a blister or pimple, reported TODAY previously. Monkeypox lesions are often described as deep-seated, well-defined and umbilical, meaning there is a dimple in the center of the lesion, Dr. Paul Adamson, assistant clinical professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told TODAY.
The lesions then become filled with pus or fluid and eventually crust or scab and fall off, which can take up to four weeks. “It’s basically contagious as long as you have the rash, until you develop a new layer of skin,” Adamson said.
“If it’s hard to look at, imagine what it’s like to have?”
Steele’s graphic selfies show the reality of an often painful and isolating disease. “If it’s hard to look at, imagine what it’s like to have?” Steele said in another video posted to Instagram on July 25.
Steele originally shared the photos on his private Facebook to keep friends in the loop, but decided to post them to Instagram and Twitter, where he has a larger following, after joining a Zoom support group for gay men who have monkey pox. had.
“There were people who just felt alone and scared… who felt like pariahs,” Steele said.
“I drew a lot of parallels between this and what happened to our community 40 years ago (with HIV), and at that point I kind of broke down and said, this can’t happen again. So I decided to do something transformative with my experience and went public,” he added.
Since his photos went viral, Steele said he had to deal with the “monkey pox stare” and “cold shoulder” of some people who recognize him in public. “I was more or less committed to that when I returned to society. … I know everything that comes from a place of fear.”
At the same time, Steele said his inbox has been “flooded with messages of gratitude” from people who have been vaccinated, recognized symptoms or tested as a result of Steele’s sharing of his story. “That made everything I was going through worth it,” he said.
Steele said he hopes his photos inspire people to be more vigilant and aware of their behavior, for example at crowded events, and to get vaccinated when possible.
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Steele ended the video by asking people to be compassionate. “These are not people who deserved to get a virus. They just got it. … If you know someone who has it, get in touch. I know there are a lot of people who feel alone right now,” Steele said.
Other monkeypox patients have also shared photos and videos of it on social media to spread the word about what the symptoms of the can look like and what the recovery process involves.
Maxim Sapozhnikov, a creative producer and fashion blogger living in Milan, Italy, said in June that he was infected with monkey pox. In a TikTok posted on June 26 that has garnered more than 12.1 million views, Sapozhnikov shared images of what looked like “pimples,” as Sapozhnikov put it, but turned out to be monkey pox.
“At first I was afraid to talk about it, but then I decided I want to help people who are going through #monkeypox,” Sapozhnikov wrote in the caption.
In an interview with SkyNews, Sapozhnikov recalled feeling unwell and developing a fever that lasted for two days before noticing two pox-like lesions.
“I believe social awareness is more important than stigmas. No illness is embarrassing,” Sapozhnikov wrote in the caption of another video on Instagram.
A TikTok user who follows Josh Jones and @ava__monet on social media posted a clip three days ago showing monkey pox lesions after a week, which has since garnered more than 3.1 million views.
Jones gestured at monkeypox lesions all over the chest and face and said the bumps were finally starting to crust over and it would take another two weeks to heal. “I feel a lot better since taking the drug TPOXX,” Jones added. (TPOXX or tecovirimat was approved in 2018 by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of smallpox, which belongs to the same virus family as monkeypox, and it can be used for patients with severe disease or for patients at high risk of becoming seriously ill. according to the Food and Drug Administration).
Another monkeypox patient who took to social media to share their journey and spread awareness is Joshua Wright, a personal coach who posted a TikTok on July 9 with examples of lesions at various stages of development.
Wright for the first time shows a lesion on the leg at an earlier stage of development: “It looks like a pimple from an insect bite. … It also starts to develop a small red circle in the center,” Wright said in the video. Wright pointed to a lesion on the face that lay ahead and pointed to the formation of the “white head.”
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Finally, Wright pointed to a lesion on the wrist that was swollen and looked with fluid. “It will pop, (but) it won’t pop like a pimple,” Wright said, adding that the lesion was very painful but would quickly reach the healing stage and crust over.
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkeypox is mainly spread through close, skin-to-skin contact, experts previously told TODAY. This can include sexual activity, as well as kissing, hugging, touching, and other non-intimate direct contact. The virus can spread through an infected person’s lesions, scabs, bodily fluids, respiratory secretions, or contaminated materials, such as bedding, clothing, or towels.
Symptoms usually appear within three weeks of exposure to the virus, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Monkeypox lesions can occur anywhere on the body or remain isolated in the region where contact with an infected person occurred, Roberts previously told TODAY.
Anyone who suspects monkey pox or exposure should contact their doctor or local health department to get tested.
“Don’t sit there and play the waiting game,” Steele advised. “If you have a lesion, you are contagious. … so get tested before passing this on to anyone else.”