The first American monkeypox patient to go public with his battle against the tropical virus has slammed health officials for a ‘lackluster’ job of testing for the virus, which has left many cases undiagnosed.
Matt Ford, a self-employed actor who splits his time between Los Angeles and New York City, has spoken out to warn people that the disease ‘sucks’ and they should take it ‘seriously.’
He blasted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for their poor testing efforts, saying it took officials three days to diagnose his illness by which point he ‘already knew’ what they would say.
Revealing his diagnosis to Buzzfeed, Ford said he caught the virus after having ‘skin-to-skin contact’ with another patient.
Matt Ford, from Los Angeles, is the first patient to come forward to talk about his monkeypox diagnosis. He is pictured above with three spots due to the virus on his face
The actor and writer, who describes himself as a ‘proud openly gay man,’ revealed he initially noticed spots in and around his ‘underwear zone,’ which indicated to him he had caught the virus.
Over the next few days they spread across the rest of his body, including his face, arms, hands and abdomen.
In total, he has counted 25 spots and said after appearing they began to ‘fill with puss’ and became itchy. Several — especially in the ‘sensitive area’ — became so painful they left him unable to sleep at night without taking painkillers.
‘I think in total I counted 25 and there are also some in more sensitive areas which tend to be the most painful. They’re so painful that I had to go to my doctor to get painkillers just to be able to sleep, like really f****** painful.’
Ford also began suffering flu-like symptoms in the early stages, ranging from a fever, chills, night sweat and a cough.
He is now isolating at home with most symptoms having largely subsided, but will remain there until the spots have healed over and the scabs dropped off.
When he first spotted symptoms on June 17, America’s monkeypox cases had just crossed into triple figures. But many scientists warned this was likely an ‘undercount’ because the CDC was carrying out so few tests every day.
The CDC was performing about 60 tests for monkeypox a day last week, leaving it unable to stay on top of the virus. But it has now sent more swabbing kits to private laboratories as it aims to ramp up testing to tens of thousands a day.
Ford showed spots on his stomach (left) and arm (right). There were about 25 in total, he said, that had erupted all over his body
Ford said he took painkillers because one of the spots around his ‘underwear zone’ triggered so much pain he couldn’t sleep. Pictured above is his arm with monkeypox warning signs
Slamming the CDC’s tracking of the virus on BuzzFeed, Ford said: ‘Many friends and acquaintances [have] reached out to say they either also had it or had been 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, it also made me worry 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 a lack of testing, and generally not being on top of it.’
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] on my face, these are thankfully healing the fastest.
‘And then these are on my arms and hands that you can see — they are really not cute. I have got one on my tummy here. And those are just a few of the ones on my body.
A day after being warned he had been exposed to the tropical disease, Ford said he began to experience flu-like symptoms which led to him visiting the doctors.
Medics took a swab on the Monday, June 20, but did not manage to get him a diagnosis until the following Thursday, the 23rd — by which point he ‘already knew’ he was infected.
A nurse then began to check-in on him daily via phone, and he also received an order to remain at home until all his symptoms subsided.
America has now recorded 351 cases of monkeypox. But scientists fear there are many more infections in the country that are yet to be diagnosed
Ford is pictured above showing spots that had appeared due to the disease on his face. He made a video for social media to reveal his diagnosis
WHO warns ‘sustained’ spread of monkeypox puts vulnerable groups at risk
The World Health Organization said ‘sustained transmission’ of monkeypox worldwide could see the virus begin to move into high-risk groups, like pregnant women, immunocompromised people and children.
WHO said on Wednesday it is investigating reports of infected children, including two cases in the United Kingdom, as well as following up reports in Spain and France. None of the cases in children have been severe.
The virus has now been identified in more than 50 new countries outside the countries in Africa where it is endemic. Cases are also rising in those countries, said WHO, calling for testing to be ramped up.
‘I’m concerned about sustained transmission because it would suggest that the virus establishing itself and it could move into high risk groups including children, the immunocompromised and pregnant women,’ said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
Another patient, based in Chicago, has also come forward on social media with their diagnosis, but has chosen to remain anonymous — going by the pseudonym ‘thatgaydoctor.’
Medical literature warns someone can transmit the monkeypox virus for as long as they have any signs. They can only be declared all clear when their spots have scabbed over and dropped off.
Ford said he began taking frequent baths and painkillers to help ease pain from his spots, but that it was only ‘so-so’ at helping with it.
Symptoms began to subside about a week after they appeared, he said, but he is now waiting for the final scabs to heal over.
The CDC has faced repeated criticism for its testing regime, which many doctors warned initially discouraged medics from asking for the tests.
The laborious process requires a patient’s sample to first be tested for an orthopox virus — the family of viruses including monkeypox — at a local laboratory. If the result is positive, the sample is then sent to the CDC for confirmation.
Critics say the process also requires clinicians to report suspected cases to health departments, who decide whether it meets the criteria to be checked for orthopox. It can also involve calling public hotlines and answering extensive questionnaires, which can be slow and cumbersome dissuading doctors from seeking tests.
Health officials were carrying out about 10 swabs for monkeypox a day when the outbreak began, the Washington Post reported.
This had risen to 60 a day by last week, but was still falling well short of the number needed as the outbreak continued to grow.
America has recorded 351 monkeypox cases to date, with another 45 spotted over the last 24 hours. New York and California are facing the biggest outbreaks.
But experts fear this could be just the ‘tip of the iceberg’, with many more infections in the community going undetected.
Experts say that as the rash-causing virus is spreading under the radar it could well become an ‘entrenched’ sexually transmitted disease in the population because warning signs can be easily missed.
Dr. Jay Varma, an epidemiologist at the Weill Cornell Medical School in New York City, said early infection signs are ‘innocuous’ and in hard to see places — like the inside of the anus — raising the likelihood it is missed.
This gives the rash-causing virus a window in which to transmit to others, before more serious signs like flu-like symptoms and rashes across the body appear.
Varma added that the tropical disease was also being aided by a lack of STI testing in the U.S., leaving many cases un-diagnosed.