It’s been two weeks since the State of Connecticut announced its first reported case of monkeypox. And while it’s still rare, now one of the people who has contracted it is sharing his experience and sending a message to others in hopes of slowing the spread.
“It's been a physical and emotional roller coaster, for sure,” Johnny Rivera said.
Rivera tells us he’s one of 13 people in Connecticut diagnosed recently with monkeypox.
“Today is actually my best day. This is day six of quarantine. I broke a four-day fever spell,” Rivera said.
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The 37-year-old from West Hartford said he’s also been dealing with aches, swollen lymph nodes, a headache, runny nose and a pimple-like rash.
“It's not necessarily a sexually transmitted disease. It is a disease that is transmitted from skin-to-skin contact. It doesn't care what your race, age, you know, none of that. Happens to be running in the gay community right now. But anyone can catch this,” Rivera said.
Experts say monkeypox has milder symptoms than smallpox and is rarely deadly.
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“I think the reality is that there is no need to panic, but certainly from a public health perspective, especially for certain populations and risk groups, there is a need to worry and that we need to make sure that they are educated,” said Dr. Ulysses Wu of Hartford HealthCare.
Wu reports there is an extremely low risk of it being spread through air and it’s more due to close physical prolonged contact.
Across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is reporting already about 2,100 cases in more than 40 states.
“I think it's a little bit too early to say that it's entrenched and we've missed that window. But yes, with each passing day, that certainly could happen. And so we want to make sure that these cases are diagnosed appropriately and quickly,” Wu said.
Testing is important, as is avoiding close contact with people with a monkeypox-like rash and isolating yourself if you become sick, according to the CDC.
For Rivera, he hopes sharing his story – including online - removes some of the potential stigma surrounding monkeypox and builds awareness that it is something to be taken seriously.
“Really, just educate yourself, do your part in preventing the spread, and be love and be light, you know, take care of each other,” Rivera said.
The Connecticut Department of Public Health sais testing is available at several commercial labs and that the state’s supply of vaccine – which can also be used post-exposure – is limited as the national stockpile ramps up.
While Rivera hasn’t received the vaccine, he said he appreciates the state’s help with his case.