(This story has been updated to correct the number of doses of the anti-monkeypox vaccine that Michigan has received. It was also updated to correct the number of people who had been vaccinated as of Friday, Aug. 5. That number has increased to 1,294 as of Wednesday, Aug. 10, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.)
As the end of July neared, Lynn Williams developed fever, chills, stomach issues and joint pain.
“I was sick with, I thought, a cold, a flu which turned into this apparently,” the 35-year-old woman said.
On July 29, she started developing pain in her rectum and anus. She began defecating blood. It was painful, and she struggled to walk or sleep. Strange bumps started showing up on her face, arms, legs and body. The bumps were itching and painful.
“I felt so sick. I felt so weak. I couldn’t walk,” she said. “I told my husband to honestly set me up with a Zoom call with the doctors at Sparrow Hospital.”
During was told she likely had the monkeypox virus. Williams went to a nearby urgent care that morning, where she was swabbed for testing.
The next day, the Ingham County Health Department announced the first probable case of the viral infection in Ingham County. State health data show four people in the county have a probable or confirmed diagnosis.
Williams said she learned by phone she did have the virus. She said she was so overwhelmed by the confirmation that she hung up on the Health Department official.
On Thursday (Aug. 4), President Joe Biden declared a national emergency over rising infections. The World Health Organization had declared the current outbreak a “public health emergency of international concern” nearly two weeks earlier, on July 23.
The virus that causes the disease starts with a flu-like illness, followed by a rash. That rash turns into growths that ultimately fill with virus and body fluids. These ruptures cause weeping sores that scab over. The current presentation of the viral infection may not include sores on the face or extremities but may be found only on the anus, scrotum, labia, vagina or penis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.
Until each scab has fallen off every sore, and new skin is present underneath, the person is considered to be contagious. It usually takes on average of 14 and 21 days for a person to no longer be contagious. The scabs themselves are considered infectious.
The disease is primarily transmitted person to person through close physical contact, bedding and respiratory droplets. Close physical contact includes hugging, kissing and sexual activity. Anyone, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, exposed to the virus can become sick.
The current international outbreak is disproportionately impacting communities of men who have sex with men, which includes gay, bisexual and transgender people and their sex partners. It remains unclear if the infection is being spread by the exchange of body fluids. The infection is appearing on the genitals, anus and rectum of men who have sex with men.
Williams was assigned male at birth.
“Persons experiencing MPV (monkeypox virus) symptoms should contact their health care provider for evaluation,” Chelsea Wuth, a spokesperson for Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, said.
Researchers are studying whether the virus is transmissible through semen, vaginal secretions, urine or feces, Wuth said, citing the CDC. Medical guidance from the CDC recommends that persons who are no longer considered contagious use condoms for any sexual activity for up to eight weeks after the sores have healed.
There is a vaccine that prevents a person from contracting the virus, and it can also significantly reduce any disease if a person is inoculated within four days of the first signs of infection.
Wuth said the state has received 7,600 doses of the vaccine as of Friday (Aug. 5). On that same day, the state recorded that 833 people had received the vaccine. Michigan is awaiting another shipment of 3,138 doses.
Anyone who has been exposed should be vaccinated. The state and local health departments are also providing vaccines for people at high risk for infection from the virus, including men who sex with men. Those at risk are encouraged to contact their local health department to arrange vaccination.
In Michigan, as of Monday (Aug. 8), there were 72 confirmed or probable cases of monkeypox. The first reported case was announced in late June.
In the U.S. there were 8,934 confirmed cases as of Monday (Aug. 8), the CDC reported. Only Montana and Wyoming had not reported cases.
Worldwide, 28,220 cases have been reported since January. At least 107 people have died. Two people died in Spain, one in India and one in Brazil. The remaining 103 have died in 11 African Union nations, according to the Africa CDC. The majority of those deaths have occurred in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Back in Ingham County, Williams was isolated in her East Lansing apartment, her parakeets chirping happily away. She continued to fight the symptoms of the infection with new bumps appearing daily. She found them in her earlobes, mouth and tonsils.
She’s unable to return to work until cleared by health and medical officials, leaving her husband and her financially struggling. She’s created a account (https://gofund.me/6ac0a9a4) to assist with her living expenses while she remains isolated. the virus. The Lansing Area AIDS Network received a donation from Grewal Law to assist people financially. The organization will also assist those who qualify with medical and social support. The funding and additional fundraising initiatives will be launched later this month, after the organization has finalized eligibility requirements, donation systems and policies to administer the funding.
Williams was keeping her Facebook friends updated about her ordeal. But her videos have been swamped with antigay slurs. Twice in the last week she lost access to her account.
“I put myself out here to be noticed and recognized — not just with this illness — but to be able to be a leader and influencer,” she said, despite her Facebook ban and the negative comments. “I’m still here and I am strong.”
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