MONKEYPOX – Alongside the seven days for people who test positive for Covid-19, the 21 days of isolation imposed by monkeypox appear much more “endless”. In any case, this is what Sébastien, 32, felt, who affirms it: “Three weeks of isolation is not nothing”.
In France, 1,453 people have officially contracted monkeypox (figures from Public Health France as of July 20), and the bar of 10,000 cases has been crossed worldwide. The WHO Emergency Committee on monkeypox is meeting this Thursday, July 21 to determine the measures to be taken against the outbreak of the disease, and to decide on the qualification of “public health emergency of international concern” , the organization’s highest level of alert.
“The impact of isolation on mental health is something that is sometimes overlooked,” laments Sébastien. Like Yohann and Romain*, he tells the HuffPost the difficulty of this period. Because even if they held on and saw this moment as necessary, they underline the consequences on their mental health and their finances.
More apprehension than for pimples
“What I feared the most was the isolation. The pimples, I had read that it hurt, but they would go away. The aches, the fever, the doctors told me it wouldn’t last very long, that wasn’t what worried me the most”, begins Sébastien, who lives in the Paris region.
“But it’s the fact that we’re in the middle of summer, that we’re after the Covid periods… We want to enjoy life a little, and tell ourselves that we’re going to have to isolate ourselves for three weeks, it seemed interminable to me”, he continues. Also for Yohann, originally from Lyon, the “worst” was this isolation. “My second reaction, after wondering what monkeypox was, was ‘mash we’re going to stay isolated for three weeks'”. As for Romain, the announcement had the effect of a “mass blow”.
Sébastien and Yohann have indeed in common to have known a rather bearable form of the disease. “Compared to the symptoms, cwas quite soft. It was especially complicated the first week,” recalls Yohann, whose isolation ended on July 14. “The fever, body aches, fatigue lasted a week. From the second week, I still had pimples that were healing, but it was no longer painful”, emphasizes Sébastien.
“Being locked in a small apartment in Paris in this heat is a bit of hell”
For Yohann, the most difficult thing with this isolation was “no longer having physical contact”. “After two, three weeks, it starts to get long. I was clearly fed up. Stay at home it’s good for a week, if we can still see people it’s fine, but there we don’t see anyone, ”he says. “It’s very heavy”, agrees Romain.
This isolation was also superimposed on episodes of high heat for patients with monkeypox. “Being locked in a small apartment in Paris in this heat is a bit of hell”, testifies Sébastien, who recalls at the same time that “there are many cases in Île-de-France”. Ile-de-France is living its last days of isolation (it ends on July 22), while France is facing scorching temperatures.
“For the Covid it was fine because I was with my family and I had a garden, whereas there I have 43m², in the city center, without a garden, without a terrace, it is not the same atmosphere”, adds Yohanna.
“My LGBT community helped me”
To cope with it, the Lyonnais appreciated being able to telecommute. “The first two weeks were fine for me. I was teleworking so it also helped me to have contact with my colleagues, and not just watch TV or sleep, even if the first week I was very tired”, he explains. “With my friends I also did Facetime, or video aperitifs”, he adds.
“But the third week, it started to get quite complicated. I admit that I didn’t stay locked up non-stop for three weeks. I went out two evenings, in the middle of the night, to land on the quays but I was with no one”, Yohann then confides.
Sébastien, for his part, also had a hard time staying alone, and first turned to social networks. “What did me good was using social networks to chat with patients. Lots of people have also heard from me, I’m lucky to be well surrounded”, he develops.
“I’m lucky to even belong to an LGBT community that organizes itself to do prevention, on a lot of media. It is thanks to this that links and connections are made and make it possible to break this isolation”, he also wishes to underline.
“But the third week, it started to be quite complicated. I went out two evenings, in the middle of the night, to land on the docks but I was with no one.
But this isolation, he finally preferred to adapt it in his own way. “The idea came to me to ask a friend who contracted monkeypox on the same date as me to share a roommate, and according to the doctors we contacted, there was no risk of over-contamination if precautions were taken. For a few days now, we’ve been sharing accommodation and it’s much more fun”, he says.
“Mental health is as important as other symptoms. Three weeks of isolation is not nothing, it is done, but you might as well try to get out of it in the best conditions, explains the Parisian. Adding a depression, a depression on top of that could have postponed my recovery, my well-being in any case.
Now he is “no longer apprehensive” of his last week of isolation. “Being in pairs is much easier. We play board games, we try to do a little sport while keeping barrier gestures”, he illustrates. Health Insurance reminds that sick people living under the same roof should not share their household linen or their dishes.
When isolation ends up precarious
In addition to this problem of mental health, Romain highlights the question of the precariousness that this isolation can cause. “I came out of isolation last Friday and received my first daily allowances, now I am anxiously awaiting my salary next month,” he said.
“Already, it is necessary to count the three days of waiting. And then I work in the hotel industry, often at night. I am paid a lot with the overtime that I lose, the same goes for the night bonuses. I am paid net 120 euros a night on average, and for the moment the CPAM has reimbursed me 39 euros per night, that does not correspond to 60% of the sickness benefit”, explains Romain, who calculates having lost nearly 700 euro salary.
“I put aside regularly so I have a small mattress, but not everyone […]. I have already been told of the case of a student who goes to work in spite of everything because, financially, he cannot get by. Others, like sex workers, are not covered,” he continues. For Romain, 100% funding of the work stoppage, as is the case for Covid-19, is a necessity “if only to encourage isolation” and “avoid endangerment”.
While waiting for this question to be asked at the national level, Romain’s isolation has come to an end, like that of Yohanna. Sébastien, for his part, still has a few nights to wait, but the more the days pass, the closer he gets to the Lady Gaga concert. “I’m so happy to be able to go and get out of my isolation for this, it’s going to be amazing,” he smiles on the phone. Roll on Sunday.
*name has been changed
See also on The HuffPost: “With Charcot’s disease, William films himself to ‘leave a trace’”