California man details monkey pox recovery to show ‘how serious’ it is

Matt Ford Monkey Pox

Justin Clines Studio

It was three weeks and three days before Matt Ford came out of isolation after contracting monkeypox.

The 30-year-old actor and writer from California opened up to PEOPLE about his harrowing experience recovering from a rare virus that’s spreading rapidly in the U.S. and why he’s sharing his story with all demographics.

“There’s no place or reason for shame or stigma in any of this. It can be scary. It can be scary, but one thing that helps me is remembering that it’s temporary and there’s another side to it.”

Ford received a phone call on June 17 from a longtime associate who had contracted monkeypox. He immediately examined his body and noticed that several sores had started to appear. After self-isolating, Ford was tested at a doctor’s office and officially tested positive for monkeypox before receiving a court-ordered stay-at-home mandate from the LA County Department of Public Health a week later.

During the first week, Ford experienced intense flu-like symptoms, including a cough, sore throat, fever and chills, and she said she would wake up with sweat on her pillows and sheets.

RELATED: What you need to know about monkeypox, including how it spreads – CDC confirms US case

Although the patients’ symptoms varied, he noticed that after their flu-like symptoms subsided, more sores appeared on their bodies, totaling 25.

“Of course [lesions] already in the underwear zone, very, very painful and the ones on my face, but I started to get them on my torso, legs, arms, shoulders, scalp; they popped up everywhere,” Ford explains, noting that the sores are “always excruciatingly painful” for a week.

“And if I moved the wrong way, if I irritated them, certain bodily functions that required movement would hurt. It was one of the most painful things I’ve ever experienced. I would describe it as at least an eight or eight. A nine out of 10,” he continued. There are a lot of reports of people screaming and passing out, really scary things, and I’ve experienced a bit of that pain and I understand why.”

In one of the first cases in the United States, the vaccines or antiviral drugs given to patients after Ford were not prescribed. Ford says he’ll just “have to wait” until his symptoms go away.

“The only thing that helped me with the pain was taking Epsom salt baths. So in addition to trying to relieve the symptoms, I drank most of them. I could take Tylenol, Advil. Lots of creams and ointments.”

Instead of a vaccine or treatment, Ford only prescribed medication, and his sores were so painful that he couldn’t sleep for several nights in a row.

Matt Ford Monkey Pox

Matt Ford Monkey Pox

Matt Ford

RELATED: WHO declares monkeypox outbreak a public health emergency of ‘international concern’

Along with the physical challenges Ford experienced during his isolation, he said the virus also took a toll on his mental health.

“For the first two weeks, I just tried to focus on getting through it and try to remember that it’s temporary. Around two weeks, it was really hard, I remember, because I started to get a little crazy stirring inside,” she admits. . “I was stuck inside and sick and it was really brutal. I feel lucky to have a strong support system. And I’m very grateful for that. But mentally it was tough.”

After weeks of symptoms and routine check-ups by medical professionals, Ford recovered from his monkeypox on July 12 and his stay-at-home mandate was lifted. He says he feels better, but reveals that there are physical and mental consequences.

“I still have pigmentation where I’ve had scars and I’ve got some residue from injuries on my body. And mentally, I’ve got really bad social anxiety. It’s a really intense thing. When you go through it and come out of it, you kind of shake.”

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Ford tells PEOPLE that while she was initially hesitant to share her story online, she wanted to draw attention to the severity of monkeypox because many people in the U.S. still don’t know about the virus and its effects.

He also says that while monkeypox affects gay men the most, it can infect any demographic, and he wants to stress that people need to be warned about “how severe or serious it is.”

“There can be a bit of a stigma around it because it can spread,” says Ford. “It’s never just sexually transmitted, it’s not classified as an STD, but it’s the main way we see it spread, and it’s unfortunately kind of like a red-letter scenario for some people.”

He continues: “There seems to be a bit of a rift between the message that anyone can get it, which is true, the key demographic, the vast majority of people who get it, are currently avid people and high street. We see it spread through sex. It doesn’t mean it’s the only way.

“I think we can now acknowledge that queer men are affected first and foremost. And it can spread to other communities without creating any shame or stigma or labeling it as a gay disease,” adds Ford.

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