Despite recovering from monkeypox, Camille Seaton finds herself hesitant to leave the house for long periods of time, having groceries and food delivered to her house.
The Georgia resident’s journey with the virus began on July 11 when she noticed several bumps forming on her face, assuming it was acne and disregarding it. “But that night, they already turned white. So I knew something was up,” Seaton, 20, tells PEOPLE.
After more bumps quickly appeared on her face, Seaton went to the hospital on July 16 for lab testing. She learned days later she had a confirmed case of monkeypox — one of the first in her state — and what she thought was acne were actually lesions. She says she believes she contracted the virus by constantly handling money at the local gas station she works at.
“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 explains. “I just wasn’t being careful and I touched my face and my body and I’m transferring a whole bunch of germs subconsciously.”
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Monkeypox is transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, however experts say it can also spread by large respiratory droplets. According to Dr. Linda Yancey, infectious disease specialist at the Memorial Hermann Health System in Houston, it is “absolutely a possibility” for monkeypox to be transmitted through items like money as the virus can survive for days in an environment.
“So, monkeypox is a sibling of smallpox … This could absolutely be transmitted in that fashion,” Yancey tells PEOPLE. “And in fact, one of the cases in the U.S. was a lady who was exposed to bed linens. She cleans Airbnbs for a living. So any high touch items like money, doorknobs, shopping carts, have the potential for transmission.”
Seaton says she didn’t know anything about monkeypox until she contracted it and her symptoms escalated quickly while isolating at home. Along with the lesions, she experienced a fever, rash, headaches, fatigue, joint pain and muscle 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.”
“I have a lot on my hands, so it was hard for me to do anything with my hands,” she 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 through the symptoms was just a waiting game since she 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 with patients who are more likely to get severely ill.
Despite medical staff being unable to provide any antiviral treatments for Seaton, she was prescribed amoxicillin and steroids because she was simultaneously diagnosed with strep throat. For Monkeypox, doctors just gave her Tylenol to break her fever.
“The healing process for monkeypox ranges from anywhere 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, I took three and a half weeks to heal,” she continues.
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“I was in contact with someone from the CDC and she was actually with me throughout the whole process,” Seaton notes. “I was checking in with her and sending pictures every time something changed up until I was healed.”
After weeks on a stay-at-home order, Seaton was cleared on August 1 after CDC officials said she was “officially past being contagious.” However, she still has reservations after recovering and doesn’t feel comfortable bringing her 3-year-old daughter back into the house yet.
Seaton tells PEOPLE that she’s had a “hard and emotional” few weeks and urges others to return to wearing masks and gloves, admitting that she wants the state to “lock us down again.”
“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,” Seaton says. “I can do what I can for the scars…they will fade but you will forever notice that they’re there.”
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