A McGill University student who is recovering from a COVID-19 infection has a message for anyone tempted to take the novel coronavirus lightly: listen to directives to limit contact with others.
"It isn't about what would happen to you if you got it," Ntando, a 22-year-old studying psychology, said Friday.
"It's more important to make sure that you're not spreading it because there are people who are way more vulnerable than you. It really is important to make sure you are staying indoors."
Ntando, who is originally from South Africa and asked that she be identified only by her first name, went to Miami for her spring break and started to develop a cough.
On her flight home on March 6, she asked the flight attendant if she should wear a mask. She said she was told masks were only given out in serious cases.
"I didn't think I had the virus. Even up until the day I went to get tested, I still didn't think I had it," said Ntando.
"I never had a fever, and they kept saying online and on the news that a fever is like the most important symptom," she said. "I was coughing, [but] I never had a fever — not once. I kept checking my temperature, and it was still in the normal range."
That lack of any fever is quite possibly what led Ntando to infecting others. She took part in a campus activity dealing with mental health, handing out resource cards and literature.
She said she might have come into contact with three or four people at that event, and about a dozen in all in her dealings on the McGill University campus.
With exams approaching, the woman called the school's clinic saying she was feeling ill and wondering what to do. The clinic staff recommended she call 811, and they told her to get tested. The result left her in shock.
"The woman told me that I tested positive, and I just asked her to repeat herself because I didn't think that I heard correctly — especially because the whole time, I had been telling myself that it was just a cold, and that there's no way I could have it."
'I felt exhausted'
Ntando has been in self-isolation since, leaving her room only to prepare something to eat and depending on her roommate and her boyfriend to look in on her and bring her food.
For her, the worst part about the illness has been the fatigue.
"The coughing wasn't even a problem any more. It's just the fact that I felt exhausted," she said.
"I felt so weak, I didn't have the energy to do anything, to get up. I couldn't taste anything or smell anything. I would forget to eat. I didn't have an appetite."
Ntando said Friday she is feeling much better. She must still take two more tests and get negative results on each one to be declared recovered.
The ordeal, she said, has taught her the importance of staying positive and listening to instructions from public health professionals.
She urged everyone to isolate themselves.
"You should just focus on your own health and how this might affect you. Don't worry so much about what's going to happen if everybody has it. Just focus on yourself and your health."