'I was very lucky,' says northern Ontario's first case of COVID-19
SUDBURY -- A Greater Sudbury man says he was 'very lucky' and is now recovering after becoming northern Ontario's first confirmed case of COVID-19.
It's a title Stewart Hamilton never thought he'd get. He was careful, but all it took was one trip to Toronto for him to become northern Ontario's first-confirmed case of COVID-19.
The geologist was attending the Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada (PDAC) Convention when it's believed he came into contact with the virus.
Before the COVID-19 diagnosis
"My profession is science and I follow a lot of the scientific blog sites. Since probably mid-January, I was getting very concerned about this and many of my colleagues and the people on the various sites were too. And there's a lot of good information there from professionals," Hamilton explained.
He tells CTV News he began to "harass" his colleagues and friends telling them they all need to be careful and considers it ironic that he happened to be the first that tested positive in his community.
Hamilton admits he was apprehensive about attending the convention.
"My supervisors did all the right things and said 'if anyone was concerned about going, they were welcome to stay behind.' You know I just didn't want to be the odd man out," he said.
Attending the PDAC Convention
The geologist said, for the most part, people at the convention were bumping elbows, but there may have been the instinctive handshake that was done without thinking about it first.
"These things can happen I guess and we find out now, we didn't know then, but we find out now that it's fantastically contagious," he said.
It was on March 11, when Public Health Sudbury and Districts revealed to the media that the city had its first confirmed case, someone who had travelled back from the PDAC Convention who wasn't feeling well.
The first sign of symptoms
Hamilton says he and his partner took precautions right away as soon as he began to experience symptoms.
"I got symptoms fairly quickly after I got back from the conference. So, I immediately self-isolated and my partner immediately self-isolated as well thank goodness," Hamilton explained. "I'm very happy that we didn't pass it on and it didn't go outside of the household because I would have been really devastated if I had been the agent of any negative effects on my colleagues, friends or my community."
"I had no symptoms for two days and then on the Saturday, because I came back on the Wednesday, on the Saturday, I got quite significant symptoms that evening between the Friday and Saturday. And they were just as described."
Hamilton developed a fever, chest congestion and a sinus headache. Luckily, there was no shortness of breath.
He made some phone calls and was immediately tested in a negative-pressure room. Three days later, that test came back positive for COVID-19.
"I probably slept about 15 hours a night for three days, which is very unusual for me, I'm probably about a six hours a night sleeper," he said. "I would say the most distinctive symptom was the body aches, the aches and pains, the joint pain and whatnot, and muscle pain. I've had the flu before, but I've never had it quite that bad."
He adds there was also a significant loss of smell. He couldn't even smell gasoline and thinks he may only have 80 per cent of that sense back now.
Dealing with isolation in quarantine
Hamilton, who works at the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, was in isolation for 23 days.
The office building where he works was closed and those employees inside were sent home.
"The isolation, I admit, was quite difficult. There's an isolation and there's a stigma too because you know you're not doing this in case. You know if you do see anyone else, you know that you could really harm them and harm the whole community. And so you really, it's a self-stigma," said Hamilton. "Once that's over, it's a bit of a relief you know, that you're not a 'Typhoid Mary' anymore and you're not going to harm anybody."
He's also crediting sunshine and vitamin D to his recovery.
"Apparently, there's a lot of research, and I've actually read some of the papers, I actually enjoying reading disciplines that are not my own, and there's a lot of research that vitamin D is important to the immune system. And add to that the fact that, as they say, sunlight is a disinfectant. So, I went out on the deck as much as I could. I tended to avoid being on the deck when my neighbours were out. I don't think there was any real risk, but as I say, there's a self-stigma associated with this," Hamilton explained. "I really think that if you can get outside, it's better for you."
His best advice to everyone out there is to listen to the professionals and physically isolate.
"Right now, this is our only hope. It's more than a hope, it's already bearing fruit in countries like Italy and Spain and also, apparently in New York," he said.
We're in this for the long haul
"I'm hoping that our leaders are going to follow very closely and once we are coming down, we have to be very smart about how we come out of this because we won't be really out of it until we have a vaccine. So, that could be a long time from now. We're in this for the long haul," said Hamilton.
"I honestly think people have gotten the message, remember I was out of it for three weeks and I didn't see the initial 'covidiots' and all that sort of stuff and when I got out. As far as I can tell, I'm really impressed with how grocery stores and Costco and also the clientele are behaving. I think people really get the message that this is very important and not everybody has. I'm hoping once we flatten that curve, I'm hoping we can get back to something that resembles normality," he said.
Flattening the curve
"I was very lucky. I don't think everybody else is going to be that lucky. If we were going to do that 'let's get it over with thing,' an awful lot of people would die and I think that's ridiculous. I think the only way to do this is the way we're doing it. Astonishingly the curves are flattening... Five weeks seems like a long time. It would be more than four weeks now for me, but we're starting to see the glimmer at the end of the tunnel anyway."
Public Health Sudbury & Districts says it will not comment on specifics about individual cases.
"Whenever a case is resolved, this is good news. The current provincial criteria for 'resolved' is 14 full days post onset of symptoms. Some individuals (for example, health care workers) require two negative swabs for resolution per provincial guidelines. We currently list 12 individuals resolved on our website. Regardless, we must all continue to take physical distancing measures very seriously," said the health unit in a statement to CTV News.