A MAN who caught monkey pox first believed he had Covid before experiencing agonizing symptoms that left him fearing for his life.
Monkey pox usually causes mild symptoms, with most people who contract the virus making a full recovery within a few weeks of testing positive.
But Harun Tulunay, a 35-year-old charity worker, experienced extreme symptoms that left him hospitalized for nearly two weeks.
Harun is one of 2,768 confirmed smallpox infections in the UK since an outbreak of the virus began in at least 50 countries in May.
Last month, health agencies estimated the outbreak was doubling roughly every two weeks, but the number of new infections has fallen in recent weeks.
Harun, who lives in London, started showing flu-like symptoms in early June, including high fever, chills and muscle aches.
Having recently contracted Covid, he was “convinced” he had the virus again, he told The Sun. “But all the tests I took came back negative.”
A few days later, the charity worker developed a red and white rash on his body that looked like an allergic reaction, which he said was “nothing like the monkey pox pictures you see on line”.
It wasn’t until a few days later that he also noticed a painless spot on his nose that he assumed was a mosquito-like bite or pimple.
Harun works in sexual health, so he is well versed in monkey pox and its symptoms, but he had never seen his rash or spot associated with the disease, so he didn’t think he might have it.
A few days later, Harun’s health worsened, as his fever reached 40ºC. “No amount of painkillers would ease the pain,” he said.
Despite his symptoms, Harun was struggling to be taken seriously by doctors, who eventually gave him penicillin for tonsillitis, which he didn’t have.
There was no suggestion from health professionals that he might be suffering from monkeypox.
Harun lives with HIV, a virus that can damage immune system cells.
You take medicine that reduces the amount of HIV in your blood to a very low level, which keeps your immune system working and prevents disease.
His blood tests suggested that he had a robust immune system at the time of his monkeypox infection.
However, her GP suggested that her symptoms may be an indication that her medication is not working, which Harun said was “really scary”.
It was at this point that Harun went to his sexual health clinic who suggested it might be monkey pox and sent him to A&E to be tested.
“You never think it could happen to you. I work in sexual health and I still didn’t think I could have it,” she said.
It was at this time that Harun developed swollen tonsils and a very sore throat.
“I couldn’t breathe, swallow or speak,” she said.
“I vividly remember calling the hospital and crying in pain.”
Harun was eventually taken to the hospital where he was isolated.
His test confirmed that he had monkeypox, and only then did lesions often associated with monkeypox begin to appear on his hands, legs, and feet.
“My throat was covered,” she said, explaining that the lesion on her nose was larger and became infected.
Harun was taken to a specialist hospital to be treated with an experimental drug that works for smallpox, a related virus.
“I was afraid I was going to die alone in my hospital room,” he said. “I’ve never been in so much pain in my life.”
“I remember looking at a bottle of water and crying because I couldn’t drink it,” she added.
Harun has now fully recovered and has since called on the government to increase the vaccination process to get more people hooked.
“Many people can be asymptomatic and not show spots in obvious places. Or they can be very small like mine,” she explained.
“These people can easily and unintentionally end up passing the virus on. The faster we get the vaccine, the faster we can stop it from spreading.”
Harun also said that many people still mistakenly believe that monkey pox is a gay disease.
“Just because the disease is currently affecting the gay community doesn’t mean they can only spread it,” he explained.
“I’ve had several straight people and straight couples reach out to me on social media to share their own experiences with monkey pox.”
Last week, politicians and LGBT+ groups alike demanded the government step up its efforts to help curb the spread.
Vaccines have already been rolled out in some parts, but the group said it must now become a priority.
In a letter written to health secretary Steve Barclay, the group said: “We cannot afford monkeypox to become endemic in the UK.
“Fortunately, we have the tools to stop this outbreak and prevent further health risks now. We urge you to do so urgently.”
Signed by LGBT+ groups for the Conservatives, Labour, Lib Dems, Greens and the Scottish National Party, along with sexual health charities including the Terrence Higgins Trust, the group said communication about the outbreak is key.
The Terrence Higgins Trust said urgent political action was needed to tackle the rise in cases.
Vaccination experts have recommended that gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox be offered the Imvanex smallpox vaccine.
In recent weeks, scientists have said that new symptoms have been identified on the skin.
Typical signs of the disease usually include fever, along with swollen lymph nodes.
But a new review of 185 cases published in the British Journal of Dermatology has found otherwise.
Doctors have now stated that the most common signs of this outbreak are rare pseudopustules.
These are similar in appearance to pustules, with the main difference being that they are white and solid.
With standard pustules, most of the time you can scrape away the top layer of the lesion to get to the pus.
Two deaths have now been reported in Europe.
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