A Texas man who recently contracted monkeypox, now commonly known as MPV, received a lot of mixed attention after sharing footage of the progress of the infection, which showed up in part on his face. By sharing his experience of MPV in public, the gay Houstonian says he hopes to raise awareness of its prevalence while removing stigma and drawing attention to his isolation.
After the 4th of July holiday, Wesley Wallace traveled to Austin for Hippie Hollow Otter Fest, a weekend gay men attend on Lake Travis, to have some fun time on the water.
“It’s kind of a lake, a boat, a shore,” says the 42-year-old tech professional.
When he returned from the weekend spent drinking, socializing and soaking up some rays, he noticed an irritation on his face, which he attributed to shaving and wearing sunscreen while cooking in the sun. When another blister-like spot appeared on his chin on Tuesday, he assumed it was a pimple, but he couldn’t pop it.
After the sores started growing the next day, he thought, Monkeypox, monkeypox. Then when he woke up on Friday he knew something was wrong because his body was hurting and his swollen lymph nodes were making him feel bad.
“And then I thought, God, I already know,” he said, “I know what it is. Wallace says he knew Quest Diagnostics had just gone online to test for MPV, so he called his doctor and requested a test.
In the end, his doctor didn’t require a test result to recognize he had MPV.
Unlike many who have contracted MPV, he does not believe it was acquired through sex.
“I have a promiscuous nature and have occasional sex,” he says, “but the weekend I got it, I wasn’t so wild.”
According to him, on the Fourth of July weekend, he had taken off his shirt in crowded gay bars, where countless sweaty people rubbed against him. He says he thinks he caught MPV kissing someone.
“I probably kissed several people at the bar,” he says, “and there were lots of hugs.”
Since TPOXX was unavailable to him at the time, Wallace’s doctor prescribed him Vicodin and gabapentin, an anticonvulsant for nerve pain.
On June 30, another man, Kyle Planck, began feeling unwell after attending Pride festivities in New York. The 26-year-old says he’s been concerned about MPV for longer than the average person and tried to get vaccinated early but couldn’t. Planck says he initially thought he had contracted COVID when the infection started.
For several days, he felt aches and fatigue. “But this [coronavirus] the test always came back negative,” he says.
Then it happened – he discovered bumps on his arms, hands and elsewhere. In his genital area, the most painful lesions, he said, kept him awake at night, unable to get comfortable because of their excruciating pain. Other lesions became mostly irritable to the touch, he says.
Other MPV patients we spoke with also reported that sores in the area they thought someone else’s infection affected were constantly painful, while bumps that appeared elsewhere on their body were less painful. painful.
Planck holds a doctorate. an infectious disease student, so because of his expertise in the medical community and his ability to advocate for himself, he received TPOXX the day after his July 5 visit to an academic medical center in New York City.
Because this drug has been tested extensively and is so heavily regulated, he thinks the government should make it available and allow people to enroll in clinical trials. Also, despite being fully recovered, he says it’s untenable that two hours of paperwork would be needed to get the antiviral even after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lowered the requirements.
While he understands the nuance of the government’s response, he says much of what happened in the United States in relation to the VPD outbreak could have been avoided in May if the government had acquired vaccines when the epidemic spread in Europe.
“Wait and see doesn’t take into account how infectious diseases work, and very differently from COVID, we had the tools. We have a vaccine that is 85% effective and an antiviral that has been shown to be safe in humans and effective in animal models of orthopox virus infections,” says Planck.
Besides its physical effects, MPV also has an emotional impact on people, say Planck and Wallace.
“There are people I know who have turned their backs on me, and I’ve received messages of hate and vitriol, trying to shame and stigmatize me,” Wallace says. “But it won’t work.”
Wallace says through tears that it’s been hard living with the equivalent of a societal scarlet letter on his face. But he says he draws strength from knowing that his story will help others in the LGBTQ+ community (who have been most vulnerable to the virus so far).
“So what I knew how to do was help other people,” he says. So after talking with friends, he says he decided to come forward and share his experience to take the shame out of the minivan.
“It’s me; I caught a virus,” he says. “That’s it.”
Last Wednesday, the World Health Organization warned that men who have sex with men should reduce the number of sexual partners they have. The WHO advice goes beyond what was suggested by the CDC, which only advised people to avoid skin contact with someone who may have MPV.
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