Despite recovering from monkeypox, Camille Seaton is reluctant to leave the house for long periods of time and has groceries and food delivered to her home.
The Georgia resident’s journey with the virus began on July 11 when she noticed several bumps forming on her face, which she assumed was acne and ignored. “But that night, they already turned white. So I knew something was up,” Seaton, 20, tells PEOPLE.
After more lumps quickly appeared on his face, Seaton went to the hospital on July 16 for lab tests. Days later he learned that he had a confirmed case of monkeypox, one of the first in his state, and what he thought was acne were actually lesions. She says that she believes she contracted the virus from constantly handling money at the local gas station where she works.
“He was touching a lot of money. Mask laws were lifted, so we weren’t wearing masks. He wasn’t wearing gloves,” explains Seaton. “I just wasn’t being careful and I touched my face and body and I’m unconsciously transferring a lot of germs.”
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Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact, however experts say it can also be spread through large respiratory droplets. According to Dr. Linda Yancey, an infectious disease specialist at Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, it is “absolutely a possibility” that monkeypox is transmitted through items such as money, as the virus can survive for days in an environment.
“So monkeypox is a sibling to smallpox… This absolutely could be transmitted that way,” Yancey tells PEOPLE. “And actually, one of the cases in the US was a woman who was exposed to bedding. She cleans Airbnbs for a living. So any high-touch items like money, doorknobs , shopping carts, has the potential for transmission.”
Seaton says he knew nothing about monkeypox until he contracted it and his symptoms escalated rapidly while he was isolating at home. Along with the injuries, he experienced fever, rash, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, and muscle pain.
“It was awkward. I was sanitizing everything, you know, like washing my hands every 15 minutes,” says Seaton. “The lesions on my face were the first to appear and the bumps stayed on my face for a week and a half. And when my face started to heal, bumps started to appear on my body.”
“I have a lot on my hands, so it was difficult for me to do anything with my hands,” he adds. “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.”
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Seaton explains that getting over the symptoms was just a waiting game as he was not offered the vaccine.
Monkeypox can be prevented with the Jynneos smallpox vaccine, which can also be effective after a person is diagnosed, according to the CDC. Along with the vaccine, medical professionals have also used antiviral treatments, such as tecovirimat (TPOXX), for monkeypox in patients who are more likely to get seriously ill.
Even though medical staff were unable to provide any antiviral treatment for Seaton, they prescribed amoxicillin and steroids because he was simultaneously diagnosed with strep throat. For Monkeypox, the doctors only gave him Tylenol to bring down the fever.
“The healing process for monkeypox ranges from two to four weeks, some people are fine in a week, some people are fine in two weeks, some people take the whole four weeks. In my case, it took three and a half weeks.” . heal,” he continues.
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“I was in contact with someone from the CDC and she was with me through the whole process,” says Seaton. “I was talking to her and sending her pictures every time something changed until I was cured.”
After weeks under a stay-at-home order, Seaton was cleared Aug. 1 after CDC officials said she was “officially no longer contagious.” However, she still has reservations after recovering and doesn’t feel comfortable bringing her 3-year-old daughter into the house just yet.
Seaton tells PEOPLE he’s had a “tough and emotional” few weeks and urges others to go back to wearing masks and gloves, admitting he wants the state to “lock us up again.”
“It really attacks you and affects you. It’s very, very painful. I want people to know that it’s here and it’s spreading. It’s not a joke,” says Seaton. “I can do what I can for the scars…they will fade, but you’ll always notice they’re there.”