The first American monkeypox patient to go public with his battle with the tropical virus has slammed health officials for a “lackluster” job testing for the virus, leaving many cases undiagnosed.
Matt Ford, a freelance actor who splits his time between Los Angeles and New York City, has spoken out to warn people that the disease “sucks” and that they should take it “seriously.”
He blasted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their poor testing efforts and said it took officials three days to diagnose his illness. At that point, he “already knew” what they were going to say.
Revealing his diagnosis to Buzzfeed, Ford said 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 discuss his monkeypox diagnosis. He is pictured above with three spots on his face due to the virus
The actor and writer, who describes himself as a “proud, openly gay man,” revealed that he first noticed stains in and around his “underwear zone,” which indicated he had contracted the virus.
Over the next few days, they spread to the rest of his body, including his face, arms, hands, and abdomen.
He counted 25 spots in total and said they “filled with pus” and itched after they appeared. Some – especially in the “sensitive area” – became so painful that he couldn’t sleep at night without painkillers.
“I think I counted 25 in total and there are also some in more sensitive areas that tend to be the most painful. They are so painful that I had to go to my doctor for pain meds just to be able to sleep, how really fucking painful.
Ford also suffered from flu-like symptoms in the early stages, which ranged from fever, chills, night sweats and cough.
He is now isolating at home after most symptoms have largely subsided but will remain there until the patches have healed and the scab has fallen off.
When he first discovered symptoms on June 17, monkeypox cases in America had just climbed into the triple digits. However, many scientists warned that this was likely an “undercount” given the CDC’s so few tests each day.
The CDC ran about 60 tests for monkeypox every day last week, leaving it unable to keep track of the virus. But it has now sent more swab kits to private labs 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, erupting all over his body
Ford said he took painkillers because one of the spots around his “underwear zone” was causing him so much pain that he couldn’t sleep. Pictured above is his arm with warning signs of monkeypox
Ford slammed the CDC’s tracking of the virus on BuzzFeed, saying, “Lots of friends and acquaintances [have] reached out to say they either had it too or were exposed.
Matt Ford pictured above before contracting monkeypox. He says he lives in Los Angeles and New York City
“While it was reassuring to know I wasn’t alone, I was concerned that cases were being severely undercounted.”
He added in a TikTok video, “According to my doctor … the CDC is doing a really lackluster job of tracking how many cases there actually are.
‘[This is] due to lack of testing and generally not up to date.
Ford is America’s first monkeypox patient to reveal his identity and be featured in a national publication.
Describing his symptoms, he said: “You can see these [spots] Luckily on my face they heal the fastest.
“And then there are those on my arms and hands that you can see — they really aren’t cute. I have one on my stomach here. And these are just some of the ones on my body.
A day after being warned he had been exposed to the tropical disease, Ford said he was experiencing flu-like symptoms which prompted him to see the doctor.
Medics took a swab on Monday, June 20, but didn’t manage to diagnose him until the following Thursday, June 23 – by which time he already “knew” he was infected.
A nurse then began checking on him by phone every day and he was also told to stay at home until all his symptoms resolved.
America has now recorded 351 cases of monkeypox. But scientists fear there are many more infections yet to be diagnosed in the country
Ford is pictured above showing spots that had appeared on his face as a result of the illness. He made a video for social media to reveal his diagnosis
The WHO warns that the ‘continued’ spread of monkeypox is putting vulnerable groups at risk
The World Health Organization said that “sustained transmission” of monkeypox worldwide could lead to the virus spreading to 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 UK, and is following 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 the African countries where it is endemic. Cases are also increasing in these countries, the WHO said, calling for testing to be stepped up.
“I am concerned about continued transmission because it would indicate that the virus is becoming established and could be moving into high-risk groups such as children, the immunocompromised and pregnant women,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Another patient from Chicago has also taken to social media with his diagnosis but has chosen to remain anonymous — using the alias “thatgaydoctor”.
The medical literature warns that anyone can transmit the monkeypox virus as long as they have any symptoms. They cannot be declared free until their spots have crusted and fallen off.
Ford said he started taking frequent baths and painkillers to relieve the pain from his spots, but it was only “so-so” to help with that.
The symptoms subsided about a week after they appeared, he said, but he’s now waiting for the last scabs to heal.
The CDC has been repeatedly criticized for its testing regime, which many doctors initially warned about discouraging medical professionals from requiring the tests.
The painstaking process requires a patient’s sample to first be tested for an orthopoxvirus — the family of viruses that includes monkeypox — at a local lab. If the result is positive, the sample is sent to the CDC for confirmation.
Critics say the process also requires clinicians to report suspected cases to public health officials, who decide whether they meet the criteria to be screened for orthopox. It can also involve calling public hotlines and answering lengthy questionnaires, which can be slow and cumbersome and discourage doctors from getting tested.
Health officials were conducting about 10 monkeypox swabs a day early in the outbreak, the Washington Post reported.
This had risen to 60 a day by last week but was still well short of the required number as the outbreak continued to mount.
America has recorded 351 cases of monkeypox so far, with another 45 detected in the last 24 hours. New York and California are facing the biggest outbreaks.
But experts fear this may just be the “tip of the iceberg” as many more infections in the community remain undetected.
Experts say as the rash-causing virus is spreading under the radar, it could well become a “locked-in” community STD as warning signs can easily be overlooked.
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 missing them.
This gives the rash-causing virus a window in which to spread to others before more serious signs appear, such as flu-like symptoms and skin rashes all over the body.
Varma added that the tropical disease is also aided by a lack of STI testing in the US, leaving many cases undiagnosed.