I mistook monkeypox for Covid – I’ve never been in so much pain | The Sun

A MAN who caught monkeypox first believed he had Covid before experiencing agonising symptoms that made him fear for his life. 

Usually, monkeypox causes mild symptoms, with most people who catch 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 which left him hospitalised for almost two weeks. 

Haran is one of the 2,768 confirmed monkeypox infections across the UK, since an outbreak of the virus across at least 50 countries started in May.

Last month, health bodies estimated the outbreak was doubling in size about every two weeks, but the number of new infections has dropped in recent weeks.

Harun, who lives in London, first started to display flu-like symptoms back in early June, such as high fever, chills and muscle aches.

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After having recently caught Covid he was “convinced” he had had the virus again, he told The Sun. “But every test I did came back negative.”

A few days later, the charity worker developed a red and white rash on his body that resembled an allergic reaction, which he said was “nothing like the monkeypox pictures you see online”.

It wasn’t until a few days later that he also noticed a painless spot on his nose which he assumed was a mosquito-like bite or pimple. 

Harun works in sexual health so is well versed in monkeypox and its symptoms, but he had never seen his rash or spot associated with the disease and so didn’t think he could have it.

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A few days later, Haran's health took a turn for the worse as his fever reached 40C. “No amount of painkillers would ease the pain,” he said. 

Despite his symptoms, Harun was struggling to be taken seriously by medics, who eventually gave him penicillin for tonsillitis – which he didn’t have.

There was no suggestion from healthcare professionals that he had could be suffering monkeypox.

Haran is living with HIV, a virus which can damage cells in the immune system.

He takes medication which reduces the amount of HIV in his blood to a very low level, which keeps his immune system working and prevents illness.  

His blood tests suggested he had a robust immune system at the time of his monkeypox infection.

However, his GP suggested that his symptoms may be an indication that his medication isn’t working, which Haran said was “really scary”.

It was at this point that Haran went to his sexual health clinic who suggested it could be monkeypox and sent him to A&E to get tested.

“You never believe it could happen to you. I work in sexual health and I still didn’t think I could have it,” he said. 

It was at this point that Haran developed swollen tonsils and a very sore throat.  

“I couldn’t breathe, swallow or speak,” he said. 

“I vividly remember calling up the hospital and crying in pain."

Harun was finally referred to hospital where he was put into isolation.

His test confirmed 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," he said, explaining that the lesion on his nose was bigger and became infected.

Harun was transferred to a specialist hospital for treatment with an experimental drug that works for smallpox, a related virus.

“I was scared I would die alone in my hospital room,” he said. “I’d never been in so much pain in my life.”

“I remember looking at a water bottle and crying because I couldn’t drink it,” he added. 

Harun has now made a full recovery and has since called for the government to ramp up the vaccine process to get more people jabbed.

“Many people can be symptomless and not display spots in obvious places. Or they may be very small like mine," he explained.

“These people can easily and unwillingly end up passing the virus onto others. The faster we get the vaccine the faster we can stop it spreading."

Harun also said that many people still mistakenly believe monkeypox is a gay disease.

"Just because the disease is currently impacting the gay community, it doesn't mean only gay people can catch it," he explained.

"I've had several straight people and straight couples contact me on social media to share their own experiences of monkeypox."

Last week, both politicians and LGBT+ groups demanded the government increase its efforts to help curb the spread.

Vaccines have already been rolled out in some parts, but the group has said this now must become a priority.

In a letter penned to health secretary Steve Barclay, the group said: "We cannot afford to allow monkeypox to become endemic in the UK.

"Luckily, we have the tools required to stop this outbreak and prevent further risk to health now. We ask that you do so urgently.”

Signed by the LGBT+ groups for Conservatives, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Greens and Scottish National Party, along with sexual health charities including the Terrence Higgins Trust, the group said communication on the outbreak is key.

The Terrence Higgins Trust said urgent political action is needed to get hold of the rise in cases.

Vaccination experts have recommended that gay and bisexual men at higher risk of exposure to monkeypox be offered the smallpox vaccine Imvanex.

In recent weeks, scientists have said new skin symptoms have been identified.

Typical signs of the illness usually include a fever – along with swelling of the lymph nodes.

But a new review of 185 cases published in the British Journal of Dermatology has found otherwise.

Medics have now stated that the most common signs of this outbreak are rare pseudo-pustules.

These are similar in appearance to pustules, with the main difference being that they are white and solid.

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With standard pustules, most of the time you can scrape away the top layer of the lesion, in order to get to the pus.

Two deaths have now been recorded in Europe.

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