A Georgia woman has revealed her experiences with monkeypox to the public – one of the few cases among a woman to have been recorded in the U.S. during the outbreak so far.
Camile Seaton, 20, first noticed bumps on her face on July 11, and assumed it was acne. By July 16, more bumps appeared and she went to the hospital for testing – where she was confirmed to have the virus. Now a month later, she still has a few visible bumps on her face and her three-year-old daughter is still living with family to protect from catching the virus.
She described her infection as incredibly painful, rating the pain as an ’87’ on a scale of 10 in a video posted on her TikTok page. Seaton also said that painful lesions on her hands made it hard to hold her phone or even perform regular at-home tasks like folding clothing.
Monkeypox cases have mostly been among gay and bisexual men through the first three months of the nation’s outbreak. Some experts are warning that the virus has already spread into other vulnerable populations, though. At least five pediatric cases have been confirmed in the U.S. so far – with many others potentially being missed. As a result, some are calling for testing and vaccine availability to be expanded.
Federal officials are making moves to make monkeypox jabs more available in America, approving plans to split doses into fifths to expand the short supply further. The move comes as America’s monkeypox outbreak – the largest in the world so far – reaches 9,492 confirmed cases. New York makes up the largest portion of cases so far, with 2,104 in the state.
Seaton (pictured) described the pain of her monkeypox infection as being an 87 out of 10. It was so bad she had a hard time performing some household tasks. She has now mostly recovered, but still has visible lesions. She is yet to return to work and her daughter is still living with family to protect her from the virus
Seaton told People that the bumps that initially formed on her face in mid-July quickly turned white, telling her that something was wrong. She was not too familiar with monkeypox and its symptoms yet, though.
The mother-of-one went to a local hospital for testing days later and had her monkeypox case confirmed.
‘I was touching a lot of money. The mask laws were lifted so we weren’t wearing any masks. I wasn’t wearing any gloves,’ Seaton said.
‘I just wasn’t being careful and I touched my face and my body and I’m transferring a whole bunch of germs subconsciously.’
Her symptoms quickly escalated when she went back home. More lesions popped up around her body and she also suffered from a fever, rash, headaches, and muscle and joint pain.
‘It was uncomfortable. I was sanitizing everything, you know, like washing my hands every 15 minutes,’ Seaton says.
‘The lesions on my face were the first to pop up and the bumps stayed on my face for a whole week and a half. And when my face started healing, bumps started appearing on my body.’
The situation got so bad that she had trouble just going through her day-to-day life.
‘I have a lot on my hands, so it was hard for me to do anything with my hands… I couldn’t hold my phone. I couldn’t do anything around the house. I couldn’t even fold my clothes. It was extremely painful.’
Seaton sent her three-year-old daughter to live with family in a bid to protect her from catching the virus as well. She also stopped going to work. In an interview with CBS, she said she still has not returned to work and her daughter has not returned home.
‘It really attacks you and takes a toll on you. It’s very, very painful. I want people to know that it’s here and it’s spreading. It’s not a joke,’ she told People.
‘I can do what I can for the scars…they will fade but you will forever notice that they’re there.’
Seaton is a rare case among a woman, but some fear that cases in people that are not gay or bisexual men are largely being missed.
Dr Scott Gottlieb, former head of the Food and Drug Administration and current board member at pharma-giant Pfizer, told CBS’ Face the Nation on Sunday, that controlling the virus will only be possible if more people are tested.
‘There’s a potential to get this back in the box but its going to be very difficult at this point,’ Gottlieb said.
‘We’re continuing to look for cases in the community of men who have sex with men, its primarily spreading in that community, but there’s no question it has spread outside that community at this point and I think we need to start looking for cases more broadly.’
While exact federal data is not available, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said during a briefing last week that the group still make up a majority of cases.
In mid-July, New York City officials revealed that 95 percent of cases in the Big Apple – the nation’s monkeypox hotspot – were is men with at least three-in-five also identifying as gay, bisexual or lesbian.
Seaton said that she was not offered the Jynneos vaccine or any monkeypox or smallpox therapeutics when she presented a case.
America is facing a shortage of both testing and vaccines at the moment, though, meaning that they have been reserved for men who have sex with other men to this point.
The CDC has greatly expanded its testing capacity in recent weeks, now being able to perform 80,000 per week across its own testing and agreements set up with private partners.
Last week Walensky said that only around ten percent of America’s testing capacity was being used, opening the door for significant expansions in the amount of people that should be tested.
This outbreak could soon get worse as well, experts fear. The new school year is set to begin at colleges and universities across the U.S. in the coming weeks.
Young students are more likely to engage in careless sexual behavior, creating a perfect storm for potential monkeypox outbreaks around the nation.
‘As we head into the fall, I’m concerned about outbreaks on college campuses as they are often a place where individuals engage in higher risk sexual activity and are in close contact with many different people,’ Dr Rachel Cox, an assistant professor in at the Mass General Health Institute of Health Professionals, told CNN.
‘We need to make sure we’re prepared to allocate resources like tests, vaccines, and antivirals to places that may become hotspots.’