It was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime to the UK. An opportunity to spruik and develop her popular travel podcast, Sh*t I’ve Learned Abroad.
But instead, Steph Paige has become one of the latest Melbourne cases testing positive for coronavirus following her arrival back to Australia on Saturday.
Ms Paige, who is a Canadian citizen living in Melbourne, moved to Australia in October 2017.
On March 8, 2020, Ms Paige travelled to London as part of a work trip to meet with her podcast co-host. Instead, the “young and healthy” 35-year-old spent the entire trip feeling unwell before being allowed to return to Australia over the weekend.
“When I arrived to London, the virus was only really in China, Iran and South Korea,” she told news.com.au.
“Basically, it all blew up in Europe while I was there.”
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Ms Paige said she started to feel symptoms just three days after arriving in London, where she stayed with her 34-year-old friend.
Ms Paige believes she caught the deadly virus off her, because both presented with symptoms synonymous with COVID-19.
However, the “typical” symptoms associated with the virus were not detected initially, with Ms Paige suffering from a number of other “weird” ailments.
“My friend who I was staying with started feeling unwell the day after I arrived in London, so I think I got it off her as she takes public transport,” Ms Paige explained.
“The first couple of days of feeling sick was very weird and I had symptoms not on the virus checklist.
“I was having severe eye strain which was the first thing I noticed. It really hurt to do anything.
“The second thing I noticed was in the morning, I’d wake feeling like I had smashed my head. I had this strange physical impact pain on the side of my head. My friend, however, had different symptoms to me.
“As soon as she started to get the cough, we knew we weren’t being paranoid so we stayed home immediately.”
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Ms Paige said around two days after feeling the initial illness, she started to experience the textbook symptoms associated with the virus.
“We were both a write off,” she said,
“I started getting full blown chills and hot flushes. I’d be sitting there sweating and my friend would be next to me shivering. That’s when we were like this is not good.”
The 35-year-old said the sore throat and dry cough came around the same time the fever set in. Ms Paige, who arrived to Melbourne on Saturday evening on board a Qantas flight said had never experienced the flu before, and found her symptoms got worse after arriving back on home soil.
“I planned on riding it out and not getting officially tested at the hospital (in Melbourne),” she said.
“But what made me go is that I started to get the chills and cold clammy skin, which is one of the top concerns of this virus.
“I slept for 21 hours and got the test, which was awful. It was like a six-inch q-tip which feels like it goes between your eyes. It’s very invasive.”
Ms Paige received the call from Victoria’s Sunshine Hospital on Wednesday morning, notifying her that she’d tested positive to coronavirus.
Her diagnosis brings the states tally up to 466 – which is an increase of 55 cases from Tuesday.
More than 400,000 people worldwide have been infected with coronavirus leading to 18,500 deaths. In Australia, 2044 people have the disease with eight fatalities.
In Victoria, two people are currently in intensive care – one in their 30s and one in their 60s.
Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said she was not in the habit of releasing patient’s ages but did so in this case “just to stress that COVID-19 is not an elderly person’s disease”.
“We have had many people overseas in their 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s ending up in ICU beds because of their diagnosis of COVID-19,” she said. She wished the two patients “a speedy recovery but this does make the point that this virus can strike down quite young people as well”.
State and territory leaders have beefed up police enforcement to crack down on returning travellers to ensure they are self-isolating.
“Victoria Police has a 500-strong squad and they’re not mucking about,” Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said this morning.
“They’re out there checking on thousands and thousands of people who have returned from overseas. If you’re doing the wrong thing, you will be caught. We’re using technology, we are doing everything we can and I thank every one of those Victoria Police members, I thank everyone across the team – health workers, people working at DHHS, doing the thousands and thousands of phone calls to do all that contact-tracing, everyone is stepping up.”
Ms Paige said she had been in complete isolation in her Yarraville home since returning from the UK, and had been advised to do so for the next 10 days.
“From my timeline I’m at the tail end of it,” she said.
“(To leave isolation) there’s three requirements one has to meet, which is no fever for 72 hours, no symptoms at all for four days and I must be feeling 100 per cent.
“I am grateful I am healthy enough that I will be fine. What’s scary is that it comes and goes in waves. You wake up feeling better but a few hours later you’ll start sweating and need to sit down.
It’s just a matter of getting through it, but it takes a lot out of you.”
Have you been diagnosed with COVID-19 after retuning to Australia from overseas?