COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — TikTok is often an app where users record dance routines or cooking tutorials. However, for 30-year-old Matt Ford, the app was a place to be transparent about his experience with monkeypox. 

Ford initially experienced flu-like symptoms, then came painful lesions. Ford counted 25 lesions on his body. 

“It was so painful, I had to go to my doctor and get painkillers just so I was able to go to sleep,” Ford said. 

His TikTok reached over a million people. Though Ford lives in New York and Los Angeles, his viral video landed on the social media feeds of people in Columbus. 

“It’s been really remarkable that my speaking out has been able to make some good out of this situation and warn people,” Ford said. “It’s good to rely on medical providers and people who have this expertise, but we’re also in an era where people’s own anecdotal experiences are increasingly valuable in putting a face to this and people being able to describe what they’re going through.”

The case number in Georgia stands at 289. In Alabama, only five. 

In Columbus, the Department of Public Health says there have been no reported cases of monkeypox. However, Pamela Kirkland, the department’s public relations coordinator, says they are taking precautionary measures. 

“We are ordering vaccines. We haven’t gotten them yet, but we will be getting them shortly so we will be prepared if we do get any cases.”

Ford says his symptoms lasted about three weeks. His lesions have healed and his court ordered isolation was lifted. Yet, his story is still making an impact. 

Ford’s transparency about his experience is helping to remove the stigma surrounding the disease. 

“I think a big part of this experience, seeing as it’s predominantly affecting queer men at the moment – or men who have sex with men –  there’s a huge community effort underway,” Ford said. “Sharing information, sharing best practices, helping each other out, helping to keep us safe…”

Monkeypox is not considered a sexually transmitted disease. 

According to the CDC, it can spread from person-to-person through:

  • Direct contact with the infectious rash, scabs, or body fluids
  • Respiratorily during face-to-face contact
  • Touching items like clothing or linens that have previously touched the infection

Vaccine doses in Georgia and Alabama are limited. They are currently being reserved for people who have come into close contact with a confirmed monkeypox case. 

The Columbus Health Department says they do not have an official date set for when the vaccines come in.