UPDATE: The health department says Wednesday’s vaccination clinic was appointment only and all slots have been filled. Stay tuned for more vaccination clinics in Maricopa County.
For Matthew Bolin, a Waddell native and Millenium High School graduate who now lives in Chicago, it all started with a fever, fatigue, and a flurry of questions.
“I couldn’t distinguish at that time between COVID or monkeypox or just a regular flu,” Bolin explains. “I had unexplained exhaustion set in and in a few hours, I had fever and chills and sweats through the night. I woke up probably five or six times that night and had to change shirts, change sheets, and change positions, I was drenched in sweat each time.”
The next day, Bolin started to notice one of the tell-tale signs of monkeypox.
“The second day is when some bumps started to come in. And we’re all little WebMDs, so I’m looking up what could this be.”
As a precaution, Bolin started his quarantine immediately and initially struggled to find testing near his Chicago home. Eventually, he located an urgent care facility that offered it. He went in for the test and in five days, got the results.
Not only were his suspicions correct, but he also had developed a secondary infection which he describes as extremely painful.
“The lesions in my case are not super painful; it’s more itchy and trying not to itch and spread. The secondary things can be excruciatingly painful.”
Bolin says for a few nights, he was literally rocking back and forth on the couch in tears because of the pain.
According to the CDC, monkeypox is in the same family of viruses as smallpox. Typically, monkeypox is not as severe as smallpox, though. The virus is usually not deadly and symptoms can appear one to two weeks after getting infected.
Symptoms can include a fever, headaches, chills, exhaustion, a sore throat or congestion, and a rash. Most people will need to quarantine for two to four weeks.
The CDC says the most common way for the virus to spread is through skin-to-skin contact, but it can also be spread through respiratory droplets and practices like sharing towels or clothing.
As we learn more about the virus, Bolin, who is still in quarantine, has made it his mission to educate friends, family, and followers on social media, daring to share his very personal diagnosis.
“A lot of people in your position would retreat inward and wouldn’t want people to know,” ABC15 Mornings Anchor Nick Ciletti said. “You’ve done the opposite because you’ve wanted to help other people. So what motivates you to do that?”
“People have someone to reach out to and talk to about it instead of sitting at home in self-loathing, and secondly to help connect people to resources on where to get tested and treated,” Bolin answered.
But there is a secondary side effect from this recent outbreak that many people did not see coming — stigma; many of the currently confirmed cases have been among gay or bisexual men although medical experts want to stress that this virus can impact anyone.
Bolin says instead of stigmatizing people, it’s better to devote time to finding resources and ways to help each other mitigate risks.
“Stigma does nothing but produce hate towards a certain group and, like we said, the virus doesn’t care what sexual orientation you have.”
Currently, there are 71 confirmed and probable cases of monkeypox in Maricopa County, according to the Maricopa County Department of Public Health website.
There is a vaccination clinic happening Wednesday from 8 am to 5 pm at the MCDPH Immunization Clinic near 16th and Roosevelt streets, but it is limited to people who are considered to be at-risk.
To see if you qualify and for more resources, please visit this website.