SEATTLE (AFP) — A Seattle woman who has recovered from the novel coronavirus has a simple message for people who are worried: Don’t panic — but stay home if you feel ill, in the interest of others.
Elizabeth Schneider lives in Seattle, Washington, which has the most deaths in the United States from the disease sweeping the globe.
The 37-year-old woman, who has a doctorate in bioengineering, said she was sharing her story “to give people a little bit of hope” through her own relatively mild experience with the infection, which she treated herself at home.
“Obviously, it’s not something to be completely nonchalant about,” she said, “because there are a lot of people who are elderly or have underlying health conditions. That means that we need to be extra vigilant about staying home, isolating ourselves from others.”
U.S. health authorities this week, citing Chinese data, said 80% of COVID-19 cases have been mild, and the serious cases that required hospitalization affected mainly people older than 60 and those with conditions such as diabetes, heart disease or lung disease.
Schneider began suffering flulike symptoms on Feb. 25, three days after going to a party that later was identified as the place where at least five other people also got infected.
“I woke up and I was feeling tired, but it was nothing more than what you normally feel when you have to get up and go to work, and I had been very busy the previous weekend,” she told AFP in an interview Wednesday.
By midday, however, she felt a headache coming on, along with a fever and body aches. She decided to leave the office of the biotechnology company where she works as a marketing manager and went home.
After awaking from a nap, Schneider found she had a high temperature, which peaked at 103˚ Fahrenheit that night.
“At that point I started to shiver uncontrollably, and I was getting the chills and getting tingling in my extremities, so that was a little concerning,” she said.
She turned to over-the-counter flu medications to treat the symptoms and called a friend to be on standby in case she needed to be taken to an emergency room, but the fever receded in coming days.
Schneider had been following news reports about the novel coronavirus. The first U.S. case was detected in Washington in late January.
The state has become the epicenter of the disease in the country, with more than 260 cases and at least two dozen deaths. Nationwide, there have been more than 1,100 cases and 30 deaths.
Because she didn’t have the most common symptoms — a cough or shortness of breath — “I thought, OK, well that’s definitely why I don’t have coronavirus,” Schneider said.
She had taken a flu shot this year but assumed her illness was a different strain. She thought a visit to the doctor would result only in her being told to go home, rest and drink plenty of fluids.
A few days later, however, she discovered through a friend’s Facebook post that several people from the party had developed similar symptoms, and she began to get suspicious.
Several of those people went to their doctors, where they were found to be negative for the flu, but they were not offered coronavirus tests because they were not coughing or having breathing trouble.
Knowing that she would also likely be turned down for the test, she decided to enroll in a research program called the Seattle Flu Study, hoping it might provide an answer. The team behind the study sent her a nasal swab kit, which she mailed back, then waited several more days.
“I finally got a phone call from one of the research coordinators on Saturday (March 7), telling me that ‘You have tested positive for COVID-19’” she said.
“I was a little bit pleasantly surprised, because I thought it was a little bit cool,” Schneider said, laughing, though her mother cried when she told her.
“Granted, I probably would not have felt that way if I was severely ill,” she said. “But from a scientific curiosity perspective, I thought it was very interesting. And also the fact that I finally got confirmation that that’s what I had.”
By this time, her symptoms had subsided, and health authorities told her to remain at home for at least seven days after the onset of symptoms, or 72 hours after they subsided.
It’s been a week since she’s felt better. She has started going out for errands but is still avoiding large gatherings and continuing to work from home.
Schneider said she hoped her example could comfort others.
“The message is, ‘Don’t panic,’” said Schneider. “If you think that you have it, you probably do; you should probably get tested.
“If your symptoms aren’t life-threatening, simply stay at home, medicate with over-the-counter medicines, drink lots of water, get a lot of rest and check out the shows you want to binge-watch,” she said.
© Agence France-Presse