Woman with allergies caught in Covid catch 22
A Covid-19 ‘‘catch 22’ has condemned a woman to staying in a mouldy isolation room at Rotorua’s Ibis Hotel – even though she believes exposure to the mould is making her sick and causing her Covid-like symptoms.
New Zealand resident Laura Virkkala returned from Finland and immediately informed officials upon arrival of her mould sensitivity, requesting she spend her isolation somewhere free from mould.
‘‘There would be a high risk I’d develop health problems,’’ she said. ‘‘I was convinced the facility would be fine, and I shouldn’t worry.’’
Three days into her stay, the problems began. ‘‘I started waking up every night sweating, heartbeat rocketing, irritated eyes and a rash around my eyes. These are the typical symptoms I get from being in a mouldy building.’’
Virkkala said she has found it hard to sleep, has felt ‘‘foggy’’ and has been unable to concentrate.
She believes the cause is the bathroom, which had mould growing on the ceiling.
She lodged an exemption application to be relocated to a facility outside of Rotorua, and that’s when she found herself caught in the ‘catch 22’.
‘‘Suddenly, the nurses came to the conclusion that I now had developed Covid symptoms, and I was ordered to selfisolate in the toxic room for 48 hours
... the only difference in my symptoms, in comparison to previous days, was that my headache was worse.’’
In a bitter irony, Virkkala was also told her request to transfer had been approved ‘‘but they wouldn’t transfer me now to Auckland as I had developed Covid symptoms’’.
Stuff showed the photos Virkkala sent of her room to Dr Caroline Shorter, senior research fellow at the University of Otago’s Department of Medicine.
She confirmed mould exposure can be harmful to someone’s health.
‘‘We know that living in damp and mouldy environments increases our susceptibility to respiratory viruses, so it’s possible that it might make someone more susceptible to Sars-CoV-2 infection,’’ she said.
Stuff also sent the photographs to the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, the Ministry in charge of managed isolation facilities.
In an emailed statement, a managed isolation and quarantine spokesperson told Stuff all their facilities ‘‘adhere to Ministry of Health guidelines around health and wellbeing requirements’’.
Laura Virkkala in the suit she has to wear when leaving her isolation room after being assessed as Covid-19 symptomatic. Inset: Mould in Rotorua’s Ibis Hotel.