Woman with al­ler­gies caught in Covid catch 22

The Timaru Herald - - National News - Benn Bath­gate

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.

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