A grandmother claims to have contracted coronavirus two months before the first the UK's first confirmed case.
NHS worker Cheryl Shepherd Burns, 43, suffered from a severe mystery illness over a year ago, leaving behind symptoms that persist to this day.
Chicken, previously one of her favourite meals, now tastes like rotten eggs.
Beef tastes like petrol. Aches in her head, neck, throat, hips and groins have prompted numerous check-ups, tests and scans.
Nurses now believe them to be symptoms of an increasingly common phenomenon known as Long Covid – where those who contracted the virus suffer health problems lasting well after it is supposed to have left their bodies.
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The peculiar difference for Dover grandmother Cheryl Shepherd is that some of her symptoms began showing in December last year – a full two months before the UK’s first official case of coronavirus was confirmed.
A flu-like illness that began the day before Christmas Eve would go on to affect several close family members.
Having reported the issues to her doctor, Mrs Shepherd and her husband were contacted in April and invited to take part in a special antibody test trial run by the Department of Health.
Both have since tested positive for having had the virus and for carrying antibodies, across two separate tests in April and August.
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Mrs Shepherd insists the Christmas-time illness, which would last for seven weeks, was the only she had suffered in the months before the tests.
The 43-year-old mental health support worker from Whitfield told KentLive : “About a week before Christmas my daughter who is a care worker came home one day with her eyes watery and really pale.
“We thought she just had the flu so we dosed her up and put her in a bedroom which is where she stayed for a few days.
"I remember saying ‘I hope you don’t give it to me as a Christmas present’.
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“Then the day before Christmas Eve, I was sat with a colleague and said to them how every time I swallowed I could feel like I have got something stuck. I’d had fish with bones in it for dinner the night before, and thought it was to do with that.
“Then I had awful heart burn, and by Christmas Eve I had a sore throat, runny nose, eyes streaming.
“It got worse and worse and I was in bed a lot which isn’t like me normally. It lasted for ages – about seven weeks, until the end of January. I felt better for about two weeks and then I started feeling poorly again, really breathless, headaches all the time.
“The lump feeling in my throat only went after about nine to ten weeks. I went to the doctors who listened to my lungs and said you are full of it on the right hand side, and they were quite concerned about my throat too.
“A chest and throat x-ray didn’t show anything so they talked about putting a camera down there, but it was around then that the pandemic came and everything locked down.”
Mrs Shepherd said that flu-like symptoms also affected husband Craig, her older daughter Lauren, Lauren’s partner Donovan and at least two colleagues in the weeks after Christmas.
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