The first US monkeypox patient to make public his fight against the tropical virus has criticized health officials for a “weak” job in testing for the virus, leaving many cases undiagnosed.
Matt Ford, a self-employed actor who splits his time between Los Angeles and New York City, has spoken out to warn people that the disease is “sucking” and that they should take it “seriously.”
He criticized the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their poor testing efforts, saying it took officials three days to diagnose his disease, after which he “already knew” what they would say.
Ford revealed his diagnosis to Buzzfeed, saying he contracted the virus after having “skin-to-skin contact” with another patient.
Matt Ford, of Los Angeles, is the first patient to come forward to talk about his monkey pox diagnosis. He is pictured above with three spots due to the virus on his face
The actor and writer, who describes himself as a “proud openly gay man,” revealed that he initially noticed spots in and around his “underwear zone,” suggesting he had contracted the virus.
Over the next few days, they spread over the rest of his body, including his face, arms, hands and stomach.
In total, he counted 25 pimples and said they started to “fill with pus” and itchy after they appeared. Several – especially in the “sensitive area” – became so sore that he couldn’t sleep at night without taking painkillers.
“I think I counted 25 in total and there are also more sensitive areas that are usually the most painful. They are so painful that I had to go to my doctor to get painkillers to sleep, really damn painful.’
Ford also developed flu-like symptoms in the early stages, ranging from fever, chills, night sweats and cough.
He is now isolating at home and most of the symptoms have disappeared, but he will remain there until the patches have healed and the scabs have disappeared.
When he first noticed symptoms on June 17, monkey pox cases in America had just tripled. But many scientists warned that this was likely an “undercount” because the CDC conducted so few tests each day.
The CDC conducted about 60 monkey pox tests a day last week, leaving it unable to control the virus. But it has now sent more swabbing kits to private labs as it aims to ramp up testing to tens of thousands a day.
Ford showed spots on his abdomen (left) and arm (right). There were about 25 in all, he said, which had erupted all over his body
Ford said he was taking painkillers because one of the spots around his “underwear” zone was causing so much pain that he couldn’t sleep. Pictured above is his arm with monkey pox warning signs
Ford slammed the CDC’s tracking of the virus on BuzzFeed, saying, “Many friends and acquaintances [have] reached out to say they also had it or had been exposed.
Matt Ford, pictured above before contracting monkey pox. He says he lives in Los Angeles and New York City
“While it was reassuring to know I wasn’t alone, it also worried me that too few cases were being counted.”
He added in a TikTok video: “According to my doctor… the CDC is doing a very lame job of keeping track of how many cases there really are.
†[This is] due to a lack of testing, and usually not being on top of it.’
Ford is America’s first monkeypox patient to reveal his identity and be listed in a national publication.
He described his symptoms and said: ‘You can see these’ [spots] luckily these heal the fastest on my face.
“And then these are on my arms and hands that you can see — they’re really not cute. I have one here on my stomach. And that’s just a few left on my body.
A day after being warned that he had been exposed to the tropical disease, Ford said he started experiencing flu-like symptoms that led him to see the doctors.
Doctors took a Pap smear on Monday, June 20, but were unable to get him a diagnosis until the following Thursday, the 23rd – at which point he “already knew” he was infected.
A nurse then began checking him in on the phone daily, and he was also ordered to stay home until all his symptoms cleared up.
America now has 351 cases of monkeypox on record. But scientists fear there are many more infections in the country yet to be diagnosed
Ford is pictured above with spots that had appeared on his face as a result of the disease. He made a video for social media to reveal his diagnosis
WHO warns ‘continued’ spread of monkeypox endangers vulnerable groups
The World Health Organization said “continued transmission” of monkeypox worldwide could mean the virus has begun to spread in high-risk groups, such as pregnant women, immunocompromised people and children.
The WHO said on Wednesday it is investigating reports of infected children, including two cases in the United Kingdom, and is following up on reports in Spain and France. None of the cases in children were serious.
The virus has now been identified in more than 50 new countries outside of Africa where it is endemic. Cases are also on the rise in those countries, the WHO said, calling for more testing.
“I am concerned about continued transmission because it would suggest that the virus could establish itself and pass into high-risk groups, including children, immunocompromised women and pregnant women,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Another patient, based in Chicago, also took to social media with their diagnosis, but chose to remain anonymous — using the pseudonym “thatgaydoctor.”
Medical literature warns that one can transmit the monkeypox virus as long as there are signs. They cannot be declared completely clean until their spots have peeled off and fallen off.
Ford said he started taking regular baths and painkillers to relieve the pain of his spots, but it was just “so-so” to help with it.
The symptoms started to subside about a week after they appeared, he said, but he’s now waiting for the last scabs to heal.
The CDC faced repeated criticism for its testing regimen, which initially discouraged many doctors to discourage medics from requesting the tests.
The arduous process requires a patient’s sample to be first tested for an orthopox virus — the family of viruses that includes monkey pox — in a local lab. If the result is positive, the sample is then sent to the CDC for confirmation.
Critics say the process also requires clinicians to report suspected cases to health departments, who decide whether it meets the criteria to be monitored for orthopox. It may also involve calling public hotlines and answering extensive questionnaires, which can be slow, cumbersome and prevent doctors from seeking tests.
Health officials performed about 10 swabs on monkey pox a day when the outbreak began, the Washington Post reported.
This had risen to 60 a day last week, but fell far short of the needed number as the outbreak continued to grow.
The United States has recorded 351 cases of monkey pox so far, with another 45 in the past 24 hours. New York and California are facing the largest outbreaks.
But experts fear this is just the “tip of the iceberg,” with many more infections in the community going undetected.
Experts say as the rash-causing virus spreads under the radar, it could well become an “anchored” sexually transmitted disease in the population, as warning signs can be easily missed.
dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiologist at Weill Cornell Medical School in New York City, said early signs of infection are “harmless” and in hard-to-see places — like the inside of the anus — increase the chances of it being missed.
This gives the rash-causing virus a window in which to be passed on to others before more serious symptoms such as flu-like symptoms and rashes appear all over the body.
Varma added that the tropical disease was also helped by a lack of STI testing in the US, which left many cases undiagnosed.