Sexual health worker with monkeypox: ‘The pain was unbearable’

Aaron Tulunaya sexual health professional living in London, UK shared how it happened your experience with the monkey pox once overcome the disease after almost a month of symptoms.

On June 11, he fell ill with a fever. At first she thought she might have Covid, but then she started to worry as she was experiencing other symptoms unrelated to coronavirus.

“I lay on the couch unable to move or sleep. I felt alone and the pain was unbearable. I felt the lymph nodes sore and swollen. The fever rises to 39.6°C. I took ibuprofen and painkillers to keep from shaking. On the fifth day, I was lying on the sofa, unable to move or sleep. I felt alone and the pain was unbearable,” he said in an interview for the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO).

A few weeks earlier, several cases of monkeypox had been detected in Europe. Yesterday July 14, the total number of confirmed cases of monkeypox in Europe exceeded 8,900. France, Germany, Spain and the United Kingdom reported the highest figures, but cases have been reported in 35 countries and regions of Europe.

“When I was referred for a monkeypox test at a sexual health clinic, only he had a blister in his nose. It started out as the size of a pen tip, then it became bigger and more painful. Due to throat injuries, could not swallow, eat or drink. It was very painful,” says Harun.

Monkeypox is generally considered mild and most people recover within a few weeks without treatment. However, the disease is often uncomfortable or painful, and can sometimes lead to complications requiring close medical supervision. Such was the case for Harun, whose symptoms worsened after he was admitted to hospital.

“After testing positive for monkeypox, I was sent to an isolation ward in another infectious disease hospital. The only thing I felt was relief because now I knew what I had. But I was still scared because, although I am a sexual health advocate, I would never have thought that monkeypox could be so serious. The the level of pain surprised me. I also realized how alone I was. He could not receive visits from friends or relatives. I thought that if I died of this disease, I would die alone,” he explains.

For 10 days, Harun was treated with tecovirimatan antiviral agent developed for smallpox and now authorized for monkeypox by the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

“All the unanswered questions took a toll on my mental health. I had never been hospitalized and the uncertainty surrounding the disease was stressful. I was taking strong painkillers, antibiotics due to a secondary bacterial infection and was fed by intravenous drip. The only thing “What I wanted was for the pain to go away. Even now, talking about the scars that monkeypox can leave makes me emotional. I don’t want to wear scars to remind me of that horrible month. I don’t want to want to look in the mirror and see that,” Harun laments.

Living with HIV since 2016, Harun pointed out “how comforting it is to listen to the stories of others”. “That’s why I wanted to share my story about the monkeypox, a disease still relatively unknown. I had no idea when I contracted it. In the end, I don’t want anyone to suffer from it. I also want to show people that I’m okay. Yes, it was serious, but I’m better,” he rejoices.

For this reason, he asks all citizens to “be careful”. “Be considerate, kind and self-isolate if you have symptoms. Pay attention to symptoms like skin rashes, fever and muscle aches. Plus, be your own health advocate and know your rights. There is a vaccine availableso ask for it. And if you have monkeypox, seek treatment,” he advises.

For case contact persons, WHO recommends post-exposure prophylaxis with a vaccine adequate second or third generation, ideally within 4 days of first exposure.

Depending on the availability of a vaccine, some countries also include strategies to vaccinate all people at high risk of exposure, based on epidemiology.

Although the prolonged close physical contact is a risk factor known to be transmitted, it is currently unknown whether monkeypox can be transmitted specifically by sexual transmission routes. Studies are needed to better understand this risk.

Research is currently underway to assess the feasibility and desirability of vaccination for the prevention and control of monkeypox. Some countries have taken or are developing measures to offer a vaccine to people at risk of contracting the disease, such as laboratory staff, rapid response teams and health workers. Tecovirimat is not yet available in all countries.

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