At the end of February, some friends and I left for the Austrian Alps for a skiing holiday. I had never skied in Europe before, but from the research I had done before the trip, I knew it would be something special and memorable.
But I never thought it would be for the reason I’m writing about now.
I arrived home in Toronto on the evening of March 1st. The next night I started to feel bad. I had a low fever and my body hurt, but I blamed him for the fact that I had just skied longer, stronger and with deeper snow than I had ever done before. Anyway, I rested the following day to rest, which seemed to do the trick because I was feeling much better and went back to work the following day.
I was symptom-free for the rest of that week. By this time, Italy and Iran had become the epicenter of the epidemic, but there were few reports of a significant peak in cases in Austria.
Late Monday, March 9th, I started to feel sick again. Similar pains, slightly higher fever, and this time shortness of breath, which I knew was a symptom of COVID-19. I phoned sick for work, staying at home in solitary confinement while waiting to hear from my doctor.
When my doctor called me, he advised me to stay home and rest, but said the chance that I was positive for coronavirus was minimal. He advised against taking a test at the time.
I wasn’t convinced, so I called my local hospital and Toronto Public Health, and to my surprise, they both sided with my doctor and told me that the risk of infection from Austria was minimal and that no tests were needed. .
I started to do my research and started to see the number of cases increase from ski resorts in Austria. I also had mental flashbacks with the hundreds of Italians, French, Swiss, Germans and other Europeans with whom I shared reduced gondola rides and stayed in close contact for apres-ski drinks. I became more and more convinced that I had to take the test, so on the morning of 11 March I put on a mask and went to the emergency room of the Michael Garron hospital.
When I arrived at the reception, I described my symptoms and was quickly isolated in a room and told to wait for a doctor. I was asked about my travel history and who I had been in contact with. This led to a couple of uncomfortable minutes as the doctor tilted his head back and threw a tampon deep into my nose, followed by a second tampon in the same nostril.
I was told that they had to go deep or that the test wouldn’t work and that I would have to go back to do it all over again. A few minutes later, a nurse handed me a self-isolation guide and was told to go home and wait for the results. Two days later, I received a call which I considered positive for COVID-19.
When my results came, I was already feeling much better. The fever dissipated, the occasional wheezing had improved and the strange feeling of not being able to taste or smell was frustrating, but not debilitating in any way.
I didn’t have much time to think about what all this meant before he called Toronto Public Health, wondering how I felt and urgently needing me to retrace my steps in the past two weeks and remember who I could cross paths with. They call this contact track and is used to let others know that they may have been exposed to the virus and that they must self-isolate for 14 days.
This information was also useful for my Global News colleagues with whom I had worked and potentially exposed to the virus in the previous days.
Regional news director for Global, Mackay Taggart, was also on a ski trip to Austria. He too had experienced some mild symptoms after returning home. After learning about my test, she found it prudent to take the test. His results were also positive.
This led a number of our Global News colleagues to self-isolation as they were considered “close contacts” of both Mackay and I.
Isolated for more than 10 days, I have had a long time to reflect on this period. By all accounts, my experience with the COVID-19 virus has been very manageable and without much inconvenience.
Having said that, I am deeply aware of the risks this can pose for anyone in our society, especially those who are elderly or live with a compromised immune system.
I often think of my return flight from Europe. Days passed before the term “social removal” became commonplace and almost two weeks before the Canadian government imposed a 14-day self-isolation period for those entering the country. Still, on that seemingly routine air journey, I was bringing a potentially deadly virus with me to my community.
It is a virus that we now know can only be overcome when we all pay attention to the warning from public health officials and everyone does our part to stop the spread.
Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:
Health officials warn against all international travel. Returning travelers are asked to self-isolate for 14 days in case they develop symptoms and to prevent the spread of the virus to others.
Symptoms can include fever, cough and breathing difficulties, very similar to colds or flu. Some people may develop a more serious disease. The people most at risk are the elderly and people with serious chronic conditions such as heart, lung or kidney disease. If symptoms develop, contact public health authorities.
To prevent the spread of the virus, experts recommend frequent hand washes and sleeve coughs. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying at home as much as possible and keeping a distance of two meters from others if you go out.
For full coverage of COVID-19 from Global News, click here.
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