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What's it like having monkeypox? Jeffrey Todd documented his symptoms and illness on TikTok

Monkeypox survivor shares his story
Monkeypox survivor shares his story: "Doctors were misdiagnosing me left and right" 05:29

When California resident Jeffrey Todd found an odd bump on his cheek, he assumed it was a pimple. But after several days, he began to notice a raised ring appearing around the bump. That sent up some red flags. 

"It looked very much like a picture I had seen on the CDC website," Todd told CBS News on Tuesday. That same night, Todd noticed a series of similar raised bumps going up his arm and back. To make matter worse, he began experiencing some distressing symptoms, including body aches and "severe" shooting pains down his back and into his legs. 

The next day, doctors had a likely answer for him: monkeypox

A virus somewhat similar to smallpox, monkeypox has been identified as a disease that can lead to weeks of painful rashes and lesions for those who contract it. While a large majority of cases have spread from men who have sex with men, the disease can be spread through skin-to-skin contact or contact with contaminated fabrics like towels and bedding. 

"They said just looking from the symptoms alone it was pretty much monkeypox but they wouldn't know for the next two days," said Todd. "They advised me to go into isolation." 

Instead of a positive test and immediate medical attention, Todd spent the next nine days trying to deal with his emotionally distressing symptoms and a medical system he described to CBS News as scary and ill-informed. 

"Doctors were misdiagnosing me left and right," Todd said, mistaking his symptoms for a staph infection or methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA. Doctors treated him for these bacterial diseases, which led to an allergic reaction to one of the medications he said "just made things worse."

Jeffrey Todd spoke out about his experience recovering from monkeypox. CBS News

Even after he was told he had tested positive for monkeypox, he still struggled with treatment. Todd said he was told by his doctor that his monkeypox test sample had been mishandled and was never tested, which prevented him from receiving a timely prescription of TPOXX, an experimental treatment some doctors believe can decrease healing time in monkeypox patients. 

Todd said he was eventually able to get the medication, which he believes helped him feel better but said the experience was still difficult. 

"I just felt really alone," he said. "People didn't have the right information and no one knew really what to do."

So, Todd turned to social media app TikTok. Throughout his 28 days of quarantine, he made countless videos documenting his symptoms and the progressions of his lesions as they turned from bright red to dark black spots. These videos, which contain images that may be disturbing or graphic to some viewers, have received hundreds of thousands of views. 

The news comes following a renewed response from national and international health officials over the spreading disease. On July 23, the World Health Organization declared the monkeypox outbreak a global emergency, the organization's highest level of alert. 

In the United States, over 9,000 cases of monkeypox have been recorded and the White House has declared the illness a public health emergency. Now, health officials and providers are focused on vaccination efforts. 

"Thankfully, no one has died, so we are still at a point in this outbreak where I do believe that, while it is very serious, it is not something that is reason for widespread alarm," White House COVID response coordinator Dr. Ashish Jha told "CBS Mornings" last week. "The goal of this is still to eliminate this virus — to get it under control and ultimately eliminate it. In terms of vaccines, we have substantially ramped up vaccine acquisition from abroad."

While Todd said he is currently in better spirits and is expected to leave quarantine Tuesday, the California resident called the entire experience "emotionally distressing" and called on better information and faster response times from health care and government officials. 

"I really do wish that the Biden administration and our government officials took it more seriously," Todd said. "It was too much of a wait, too much of a pause, too much indifference there." 

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