Health officials this week said there was no evidence that Covid-19 was spreading in Northern Ireland in the months before the first confirmed case.
ut that did little to deter hundreds of people who believed that a bug that knocked them down in December was actually the virus that has been wreaking havoc around the world in recent months, infecting nearly five million people around the world and killing over 300,000.
Just this week, Declan Boyle, who recovered from the virus, said he thought family members may have had it late last year.
Since the man from Belfast told his story, others from across the province have come forward to explain why they too are wary of also being victims of the virus.
Co Down’s wife Peggy Kelly fell ill after returning from vacation in December. Killyleagh’s mother of three describes how she was sick for a full month.
“I really think I had a coronavirus,” said the 72-year-old. “We were in Benidorm in December and came back around the 17th. Just before Christmas, I started to feel really sick. I have been in bed for more than three weeks. I had a bad cough, a terrible fever, chills and tremors, I couldn’t ”I was not eating anything. I was hallucinating, it really took me away. I went to the doctor and she told me to take paracetamol.
“It completely took my feet off. My family was so worried and upset; they said they’ve never seen me so sick. And I’ve never been so sick in my life.
I think I had coronavirus because I have never been sicker in my life, honestly. I’ve had the flu before and it wasn’t an ordinary flu, it was something different. It was horriblePeggy Kelly
“It took me at least four weeks to get over it. I didn’t know what it was about and I guess neither did the doctors. So it was all about taking my bed and waiting for it to go away.
“I think I had a coronavirus because I have never been sicker in my life, honestly. I’ve had the flu before and it wasn’t an ordinary flu, it was something different. It was horrible. “
Barrie Elkin, a man from east Belfast (64), fell ill at Christmas with his wife Sharon and son Barrie (18). The family was struck by an insect that prevented them from getting out of bed and had difficulty breathing.
“My son Bruce fell ill in late December,” he says. “He had celebrated before Christmas, as do 18 year olds. He was so sick on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. He slept all day and couldn’t eat.
“Some of his friends had texted him to say they were sick with an insect and couldn’t stop coughing. He could barely get out of bed to eat his Christmas dinner. We think we might have caught something from him. “
“Five days later, the day after our wedding, I and my wife Sharon fell ill together. We both had to stay in bed for about four days. We couldn’t move. Each time we moved, our neck and back were in agony. We couldn’t eat, just drink water.
I remember at the time thinking that it was a terrible flu, the worst I had ever known, and that I never wanted to relive it. But now, with hindsight, I am convinced that it was the coronavirusBarrie Elkin
“We were discussing who felt the worst. I have never felt so bad in my life, honestly.
“We had high temperatures, we had cold sweats and chills and we were totally tired. We just wanted to sleep all the time. I had a cough, my wife did not. She was absolutely overcome with exhaustion and illness. She just couldn’t move.
“For me, we all had the symptoms of coronavirus. I couldn’t breathe at all. I was really forcing myself to get air into my lungs. In early January, I went to the doctor and he gave me antibiotics. But they really didn’t feel good for weeks and weeks afterwards. I was also totally exhausted.
“I remember at the time thinking that it was a terrible flu, the worst I had ever experienced, and that I never wanted to relive it again. But now I’m convinced, thinking about it, that it was the coronavirus.
“We sent for the antibody test to see if we got it or not. We want to know. “
Janet Hetherington (64), who lives in the Waterside area of Londonderry with husband David and son Andrew, says she fell ill after the death of her friend from a mysterious virus.
“A friend of mine died of an unknown virus in early January,” she said. “I started to feel very bad at his funeral. I was coughing and coughing. A few days later, I couldn’t move. I was so exhausted, I was totally devastated and I had to sleep all the time.
The fatigue was unlike anything I’ve ever had before, it was unreal. I would take a shower and then lie down. It took me so muchJanet Hetherington
“I couldn’t stop coughing. I have tried all the cough medicines, but nothing could help this hacking cough. I couldn’t sleep to cough and that only added to the exhaustion. I was sick for about six weeks, until the end of February. Whenever I thought I was coming, it hit me again. I couldn’t taste anything and I was not at all interested in food.
“The fatigue was unlike anything I’ve ever had before, it was unreal. I was going to take a shower and then I had to lie down. It took me so much. It was a horrible experience. I went to the doctor and he said there was something horrible.
“I am in a choir and I had spoken to some of the other members who said there were many people who complained of the same symptoms. One of the women said it had taken seven weeks to recover. “
Vivian Ferguson (32), IT consultant from North Belfast, is convinced he had the virus before Christmas. “I started a new job in the first week of December,” he says. “During the second week of December, I developed a headache and lost my taste and smell. I completely stopped eating. The pain in my head got worse over the next few days. It was crazy pain that the paracetamol didn’t even want to move. I also had a bad dry cough.
“I remember having a fever. I just had to stay in bed. During all this time, all the headaches did not go away. He stayed strong. I was in bed for about six days, completely on the floor. It was only after this period that my headaches changed. It took weeks for the cough to go away. Half of my office was also sick with the same symptoms.
“I have never had anything like this before. The headache was unreal. When he started making the news about the coronavirus and there was a list of symptoms, it made me think. I am sure it was a coronavirus. I’ve never been so sick. ”
Although many people are convinced they may have had a coronavirus, medical experts disagree.
Dr. Tom Black, president of the British Medical Association (BMA) and general practitioner in Londonderry, says he believes that the virus that makes people sick before Christmas is a different virus.
My opinion would be in line with popular belief that we did not see Covid in December and January, but we did see other viral diseases that could have been mistaken for this.Dr Tom Black, British Medical Association
“There was definitely a viral illness in December and January,” he says. “But that would not have been consistent with what we then discovered with the Covid virus. From a patient’s perspective, you would have had a sore throat, temperature, feeling unwell, vomiting and diarrhea as well. So, I guess there are some similarities but it is because they are two viral diseases. We certainly didn’t see the level of very severe respiratory symptoms that we then saw with Covid.
“My opinion would be consistent with popular opinion that we did not see Covid in December and January, but we saw other viral diseases that could have been confused with this. “
Dr. Black says he disagrees with suggestions that generalized disease in December was actually the first wave of coronavirus and that we have just left the deadly second wave.
“Our colleagues in microbiology know very well when the infection occurred and when they were able to detect it in their very precise tests,” he said. “I think we are still in the first wave. The severity of Covid was significantly different from a standard flu. It is a much more serious disease in a minority and we did not see these patients until we were in the pandemic. “
And Dr. Black says, although there are fewer patients coming to our hospitals, the virus is still there.
“We have fewer cases appearing in general medicine. We have fewer cases entering Covid centers than general practitioners and we have fewer cases in the hospital and ICU. So in all four areas we have reduced the number of cases, ”he says.
“He’s not gone yet, he’s still rampant in the community. There seems to be a concentration in two places – in nursing homes and among healthcare workers. We will therefore begin to increase our tests on patients and staff in nursing homes, which was announced by the minister. And we’re going to have to increase our testing among healthcare workers. ”
As for the number of us who could have acquired collective immunity, Dr. Black also believes that the numbers are still very low, claiming that only 5% of the population of Northern Ireland may have already had the virus. .