As cases of monkeypox are on the rise around the world, some infected people are sharing photos and videos on social media to spread awareness of the symptoms, show what the rash can really look like, and educate others about the disease.
On social media, a man named Silver Steele posted a photo timeline on Instagram of how monkeypox developed over the course of three weeks, which has since gone viral. (TODAY reached out to Steele for comment but did not hear back.)
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According to Instagram, the Houston, Texas resident contracted monkeypox in July. Alongside the now-viral selfie collage, Steele wrote: “My intention with this is to educate, not to offend anyone.”
“Not everyone presents with the same symptoms, but I’ve been told by several professionals that my case is a ‘clinically ideal’ example and that it’s being used in CDC demonstrations and medical journals,” Steele added.
It took seven to eight days for Steele to develop symptoms after being exposed to the virus, Steele wrote in a comment on his Instagram post.
In another comment, Steele noted that there was “nothing” in the affected area of the face before the sores appeared on July 10, noting that it was not painful until five days after the onset of symptoms. “On July 15th, I developed flu-like symptoms that lasted 48 hours,” Steele wrote.
Steele’s lesions ranged from pimple-like bumps to large, ulcerated lesions and crusted lesions and were described as painful. On day 18, Steele’s wounds finally started to shrink. “The pink rims show he’s on the mend,” Steele said in a July 28 video update to viewers.
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What are the common symptoms of monkeypox?
A classic case of monkeypox usually begins with a flu-like set of symptoms (also called a prodrome) that include fever, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle aches, and chills.
The rash then usually appears within five days of these flu-like symptoms, but sometimes it can appear at the same time as the symptoms or without any flu-like symptoms, Dr. Scott Roberts, associate medical director of infection prevention and control at Yale School of Medicine, said earlier TODAY. As in Steele’s case, many patients reported developing flu-like symptoms after the lesions.
Before the current outbreak, the rash usually started on the face and hands before spreading to the rest of the body. But studies of current outbreaks have shown that lesions around the rectum, genitals, mouth, and throat (as well as other parts of the body) often appear first and do not always spread to other parts of the body.
The rash usually starts as a flat, red patch of skin that then turns into hard, raised bumps that look like blisters or pimples, TODAY reported. Monkeypox lesions are often described as deep, well-circumscribed, and umbilical, which means there is a pit in the center of the disease, Dr. Paul Adamson, assistant professor of medicine at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, told TODAY.
The sores then fill with pus or fluid and eventually crust or scab over, which can last up to four weeks. “It’s basically after the rash is infected, before the new layer of skin is formed,” Adamson said.
“If it’s hard to review, imagine what it’s like?”
The graphic selfies posted by Steele show the reality of the often painful and isolating illness. “If it’s hard to review, imagine what it’s like?” Steele said in another video posted on Instagram on July 25.
There are currently two vaccines used in the United States to prevent smallpox and monkeypox, but they are limited and not available to the general public.
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Steele ended the video by urging people to be kind. “These are not people who deserve to be infected with the virus. They just got it. … If you have any, please reach out. I know there are a lot of people out there who feel alone right now,” Steele said.
Other monkeypox patients have also shared photos and videos on social media to spread the word about what the symptoms are like and what the recovery process entails.
Maksym Sapozhnikov, a creative producer and fashion blogger living in Milan, Italy, said that he was diagnosed with monkeypox in June. Posted on June 26, Sapozhnikov, who has more than 12.1 million views on TikTok, shared photos of what Sapozhnikov called a “beshki” but turned out to be monkeypox.
“At first I was afraid to talk about it, but later I decided that I want to help people with #monkeypox,” Sapozhnikov captioned the photo.
In an interview with SkyNews, Sapozhnikov recalled that he felt sick, had a fever that lasted two days, and noticed two smallpox-like sores.
“I believe that public awareness is more important than any stigma. No disease is shameful,” Sapozhnikov wrote alongside another video on Instagram.
Josh Jones and @ava__monet, a TikTok user, posted a clip on social media three days ago showing a week of monkeypox, which has since garnered over 3.1 million views.
Pointing to monkeypox sores all over his chest and face, Jones said the bumps are finally scabbing over, but will take another two weeks to heal. “I feel so much better since taking TPOXX,” Jones added. (TPOXX, or tecovirimat, was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2018 for the treatment of smallpox, which belongs to the same virus family as monkeypox, and can be used in patients who have severe disease or are at risk of severe disease. Food and drug administration).
Another monkeypox patient has taken to social media to share his journey and spread awareness — Joshua Wright, a personal trainer, posted on TikTok on July 9 showing examples of sufferers in various stages of development.
Wright first shows the sore on his leg in an earlier stage of development: “It looks like a slash pimple from a bug bite. … It’s also starting to have a little red circle in the center,” he said in the video. Further pointing to a facial lesion, Wright demonstrated the formation of a “whitehead.”
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Eventually, Wright showed a wound on his wrist that was swollen and filled with fluid. “It comes out, (but) it doesn’t come out like a pimple,” Wright said, adding that the sore is very painful but will soon reach the healing stage and become a scab.
How is monkeypox spread?
Monkey pox is usually transmitted through close skin-to-skin contact, experts previously told TODAY. This can include sexual activity, as well as kissing, hugging, touching and other non-intimate direct contact. The virus can spread through an infected person’s wounds, scabs, body fluids, respiratory tract, or contaminated materials such as bedding, clothing, or towels.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, symptoms usually appear within three weeks of exposure to the virus. Monkeypox lesions can appear anywhere on the body or be isolated to an area that has been in contact with an infected person, Roberts told TODAY earlier.
Anyone with suspected monkeypox should see their doctor or local health department for testing.