Monkeypox, the number of cases of which has tripled in two weeks in Europe, worries the World Health Organization, which calls for “urgent action”. Symptoms, care pathways, recovery, prevention… Two young French people who contracted the virus at the end of June tell their ordeal to BFMTV.com.
“At the hospital, when they told me that I might have caught monkeypox, I didn’t believe it at all.” Until last Wednesday, Nicolas Prata thought he only had severe angina. Before his diagnosis, the 24-year-old from Lyon barely knew what monkey pox was.
“I had vaguely heard about it on TV but we were talking about a case here and there, it didn’t worry me at all”, he confides to BFMTV.com.
However, an unusual upsurge in cases of monkeypox has been detected since May outside the countries of central and western Africa, where the virus usually circulates. More than 3,000 cases have thus been identified in Europe and on the American continent, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), which called for “urgent action” in the face of the tripling of cases in Europe. In France, 498 people were infected as of June 30, according to Public Health France.
“There is no treatment, I have been told so”
Although he suffered from severe sore throat and fever, neither the doctors nor Nicolas Prata immediately made the connection with monkeypox. At first, his doctor puts him on antibiotics, thinking that it is a simple angina.
“At first it didn’t worry me too much because it’s something that I develop quite often because of the air conditioning,” he explains.
But two days later, the young nurse begins to ask questions, seeing that his condition is not improving at all, on the contrary. “I had never had a pain like that in my throat”. A few hours later, pimples appear all over her body and face. “They looked like tiny mosquito bites but honestly if I hadn’t been asked, I wouldn’t have noticed them at any time. I had to look at my body with a magnifying glass.”
“When I tested positive, I was somewhat relieved that my symptoms were taken seriously, but also very worried since we don’t know about this smallpox at all and my symptoms were very strong” , explains the nurse.
“I just have to wait for it to pass”, he breathes, “since there is no treatment as I have been told”.
It has now been five days since the young man has been hospitalized in Lyon, under morphine. About ten days after the onset of symptoms, her condition slowly began to improve, although the sore throat persisted. He explains that he thinks he contracted the virus in the mouth after close contact with a friend on the evening of the Fête de la Musique, but “it’s unclear”.
“I couldn’t sleep or eat anymore”
Body aches, fever, fatigue … When the first symptoms of monkeypox appeared on June 21, Corentin Hennebert first believed that he had caught Covid, but the test turned out to be negative.
“But it didn’t last long,” Corentin Hennebert, a 27-year-old Parisian, told BFMTV.com.
“Then I have extremely painful and very very restrictive lesions which appeared on the mucous membranes”, at the level of the genitals. “Then finally, sorts of pimples on the body and the face: scabs which do not heal, basically”.
“At first I thought it was going to pass”, explains the young man, author and director at the theater. But the symptoms, which he said resembled hemorrhoids, were “very painful and not improving”.
“I found it abnormal and I quickly went to the hospital because it was already very restrictive: I could no longer sleep. It was sleepless nights. I could no longer eat, I ‘avoided because I had a lot of pain when going to the bathroom’.
Three days later, after a few samples taken in the emergency room, Corentin Hennebert learned that he had indeed contracted monkeypox, as the doctors feared. “I was very surprised because there were only a few cases at that time in France,” says the young man, who thinks he was infected five days before his first symptoms, during a ” close contact with a person in a festive context”.
“It’s a disease that is caught by a rapprochement: it can be saliva or even skin-to-skin contact,” he recalls.
A glaring lack of prevention and information
From now on, Corentin Hennebert just like Nicolas Prata are forced to remain in solitary confinement for three weeks.
“All there is to do is wait, since there is no treatment,” he also regrets.
In order not to contaminate others, infected people must cover their skin lesions “with bandages and other long clothes”, especially if they were to go out shopping because “these have a very high viral load”. Before being able to resume a normal life, they will finally have to wait for the end of their healing, and wash all their clothes at 60°C.
About ten days after the start of the infection, the 27-year-old director is still on painkillers. “I was prescribed strong painkillers because the pain was unbearable. Today it still throws me off and the pimples are still there even if they are starting to shrink a little,” says Corentin Hennebert. If today “it’s a little better”, he explains that the lesions take a long time to heal.
“In any case, I would have done well without it (…), I don’t wish that on anyone”.
The young man, who does not hide his concern about the continuation of the epidemic, regrets the lack of information and prevention of the public authorities around this virus. “Even when I was told I had monkeypox, I didn’t have a lot of information about what was going to happen. The doctor basically told me what to do , and very soon after hanging up, I was alone at home. Then Public Health France called me to investigate my symptoms and my list of contact cases, to warn me that they had to be vaccinated. But to this day it’s been a week and they still haven’t been called” by the health authorities.
Patients facing the fear of amalgam fillings and homophobia
After posting a detailed thread on his experience of the disease on Twitter, Corentin Hennebert says he “has been contacted by a lot of people” who are a little lost, asking him for advice or information about the disease. According to him, his tweets had a very strong impact due to the lack of information.
“I find it crazy,” he points out. “I am not a doctor, and I find it unfortunate that it is up to a patient to tell others whether it is that or not, that it is up to me to recommend that they go to hospital”.
Finally, the young man fears that this disease is subject to “amalgams”, as AIDS could have been in the 1980s. Because if the majority of European and American cases have so far been recorded in men who have had homosexual relations, they are not the only ones concerned. Since the publication of his tweets, he has already been the target of a wave of homophobic cyberbullying. “I received hundreds of nauseating messages,” he laments.