What do a small business owner in the American Midwest, a corporate manager in Sao Paolo and a real estate lawyer in London all have in common? monkeypox
All three are gay men. And though they’re scattered across three continents, each has joined the ranks of more than 21,000 patients across 79 countries who are waging unexpected battles against a rare viral infection, monkeypox.
All three of the men are on the frontlines of what the World Health Organization (WHO) now calls a global public health emergency.
“It is nothing I would ever wish on anybody,” warns Chicago resident Josh Watson, who is still recovering from excruciating symptoms.
“I woke up with a sore throat, which I didn’t think too much about,” the 33-year-old recalls of his first day of the illness. “But by the afternoon my lymph nodes were sore, I noticed a lesion forming on the roof of my mouth, and my throat was worse.”
That was on a Friday. By Monday morning, Watson was suffering severe headaches and body aches, “and I had another lesion show up on my chin, and one down in my pubes at the base of my penis.” So, he went to get tested for monkeypox. A day later, the results came back positive.
“After I was diagnosed, I got worse, much worse,” Watson shares. “I was really tired. And I had clusters of lesions in the back of my throat. I couldn’t eat solid food. And I ended up getting a large lesion on my uvula,” the fleshy nob that hangs down at the back of the throat. “That made it hard to drink.”
More lesions popped up on his arms, legs, feet and cheek and, eventually, internal lesions developed in his rectum.
“At first, it was a little painful to have a bowel movement. But then it progressed to the point where I was moaning and crying, even with stool softeners,” Watson adds. “And my prostate became inflamed, making it hard to pee. I have a very high tolerance for pain, but I think this was like a 9 or 10 out of 10. The pressure inside was so bad I couldn’t even sit up.”
‘Didn’t expect it’
Most patients have been caught off guard by monkeypox.
As July 4 approached, Watson did think monkeypox was a concern, but not that much of a concern. He says he’d already considered trying