More than a hundred cases of monkeypox have been reported in Arizona and getting the vaccine has been difficult.
A Valley man who wishes to remain anonymous says he's battling the illness and explains the issues that come with it.
"I woke up Sunday morning and my lip was just completely swollen, and on the top of it was just a little white spot, and it was just oozing stuff," he said.
Later that day, he went to the hospital, not sure what was wrong. After scans and other tests, they finally decided to test him for monkeypox.
"They asked me if I was a homosexual and if I had been out of the country recently. I am a homosexual, but I haven’t been out of the country," he said. The next day, he got the results.
He was positive for a disease now labeled a public health emergency.
"Having doctors tell you that they don’t know about this is scary, because what am I supposed to do? I didn’t even get any pain medications for this until Friday," he said.
He’s been in self-induced isolation, waiting to get the antiviral medication that he likely won’t see until Monday, marking exactly one week since his diagnosis.
He says he's called the Maricopa County Department of Health, his primary care physician, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), feeling like he’s had to fight the medical community the entire way.
An Arizona medical expert says physicians are learning about the illness along with the public.
"It's not like they see monkeypox or have seen it earlier in their careers, so there is a learning curve for clinicians, for them to effectively learn what the rash looks like," explains Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association.
Humble says there are only three labs that can test for monkeypox in Arizona.
It "puts Arizona at a disadvantage when it comes to competing with other states for the limited supply of vaccine that’s out there," Humble says.
While most of those who became infected are recovering, there are situations where that’s not the case, making access to the vaccine or the antiviral medication crucial to stopping the spread.
"It’s not technically a sexually transmitted infection the way say Chlamydia or syphilis or something like that is, but the direct intimate skin-to-skin contact that happens during sex spreads this virus," Humble explained.
What's next? Humble says Arizona is currently on the upswing, and that we will see the case count rise in the near future.
Statement the Arizona Department of Health Services:
- Monkeypox must be reported in Arizona as an emerging and exotic disease, as required in state communicable disease rules and a Health Advisory Network advisory issued May 23, 2022: https://azdhs.gov/documents/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/communicable-disease-reporting/reportable-diseases-list.pdf. The definition of emerging or exotic disease includes a known disease not usually found in the geographic area or population in which it is found, which is the case for monkeypox. This long-standing process allows public health to respond quickly and effectively to emerging communicable diseases.
- ADHS has statewide surveillance data on monkeypox cases and posts it weekly with our infectious disease reporting here: https://www.azdhs.gov/documents/preparedness/epidemiology-disease-control/disease-data-statistics-reports/data-statistics-archive/2022/weekly.pdf?v=20220726.
- There are multiple lab options for testing in Arizona, including the Arizona State Public Health Laboratory, LabCorp, Mayo Clinic, ARUP Laboratories, and Quest Diagnostics.
Monkeypox? What is it?
According to the CDC, monkeypox is caused by a virus that is in the same genus of viruses that causes smallpox.
Monkeypox, according to the CDC, was first discovered in 1958, following two outbreaks of a pox-like disease in colonies of monkeys that were kept for research.
The first human case of the disease was recorded in a country now known as the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1970, during a period of intensified effort to eliminate smallpox. Since then, the disease has been reported in people in several central and western African countries. Cases have also been reported in the U.S., as well as a number of Asian, Middle Eastern, and European countries.
What are the symptoms of monkeypox?
According to CDC's website, it takes usually seven to 14 days from the time of infection for a person to start feeling symptoms of the disease, but the incubation period can also range from five to 21 days.
The illness, according to the CDC, begins with:
- Muscle aches
- Swollen lymph nodes
CDC officials say within one to three days after the appearance of fever, the person infected will develop a rash, often beginning on the face then spreading to other parts of the body. The rash will eventually dry up and fall off.
According to the World Health Organization, symptoms of monkeypox typically last two to four weeks.
Editor's note: The story has been updated to include statements from the Arizona Department of Health Services.