A Tooele man has been transported from a quarantined cruise ship docked in Japan to a Tokyo hospital.
John and Melanie Haering left the day after Thanksgiving for a six-month vacation. With plans to see Asia, Australia and Hawaii, they were quarantined on Feb. 6 after a passenger who got off their cruise ship in Hong Kong tested positive for the novel coronavirus.
A few days later, John Haering became ill with flu-like symptoms including fever, chills and nausea for four days.
In an interview with the Transcript Bulletin early Wednesday evening local time, John Haering said his fever had broke when he woke up that morning. He said he was feeling better and was able to eat again.
“People want to know what the coronavirus is like,” John Haering said. “It’s like the flu, but it lasts a lot longer.”
But later Wednesday evening, Melanie Haering said in a text message that John had been transported to a Tokyo hospital by medical staff.
“Although he was feeling great, they are doing it as a precautionary [measure],” she said.
John Haering’s hospitalization left Melanie Haering alone in their windowless cabin on the Diamond Princess cruise ship with one more week left of the 14-day quarantine.
She said they had boarded the ship in Singapore for a cruise to Hong Kong. They had been aboard the ship for 29 days when the passengers were quarantined, she said.
“We have free internet and cell phone service,” she said. “That has helped us survive. We can call family and friends, respond to text messages, and check email.”
The couple also brought with them a UNO and Scrabble game and a deck of cards.
“They bring us meals, provide us with plenty of water, vitamins, and medication,” Melanie Haering said. “They have refunded our cruise and offered us another free cruise — and yes, we’ll cruise with them again.”
She said the cruise line has also provided passengers with thermometers to check their temperatures, a mental health hotline, unlimited phone and internet access, and smokers were given nicotine gum.
Melanie Haering said when John was sick the couple lost track of time as they were confined to their room.
“He would go through cycles of fever and chills,” she said. “We would be waking up at different time to put on ice packs to cool him down and falling asleep when we got tired maybe around 3 a.m. some nights. Without a window to tell morning from night, we had to rely on the clock to know what time of day it was.”
It took almost 20 hours for the first doctor visit, according to Melanie Haering. After that she said they saw a doctor three times in 24 hours.
“The reason it took so long to see us the first time is they were evacuating the 60 who were infected off the ship. Never did we feel neglected but frustrated for a short time,” she wrote in a Facebook post.
Despite the illness and quarantine, Melanie Haering said she and John don’t plan to let this “unplanned itinerary” interrupt their six-month vacation.
“We’ve been told that after the quarantine is up, we will be able to travel anywhere as usual,” Melanie Haering said. “We missed our planned trip to Thailand, but when we get off the ship we will catch a plane to Sydney, Australia, where we will go on another cruise for 21 days.”
Eventually the Haerings will end up in Hawaii before they fly home to Utah.
“We appreciate all the love and support we have received,” Melanie Haering said. “We have felt the amazing outpouring of good energy and prayers. Tooele has been very good for our family. It is a really good place.”
In a letter dated Feb. 12, the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that in conjunction with the cruise line, Japanese government and health officials, they will begin a voluntary disembarkation of passengers to a quarantined housing facility.
The most medically vulnerable will be evacuated in the first phase, and not everyone may be offered a chance to disembark before the quarantine period is over, according to the letter.
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). The novel coronavirus is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans.
Coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people. Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.
Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, and thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing.