Nova Scotia

This Halifax man's family all got COVID-19. Here's what he wants people to know

Shawn Selfridge, his wife and their two kids became infected while visiting family in Maine in mid-March. They've all since recovered.

'I want people to know and see that you can get it and survive,' says Shawn Selfridge

Shawn Selfridge, an osteopath who lives in Halifax, tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a family reunion in the U.S. in March. (Shawn Selfridge)

Shawn Selfridge doesn't want to keep the fact that his family contracted COVID-19 a secret. 

"I want people to know and see that you can get it and survive and that's not to diminish the fact that people have suffered greatly from the virus, but I wanted to also destigmatize perhaps in some way having had it," the Halifax osteopath and father of two told CBC's Information Morning.

Selfridge, his wife and their kids were infected while visiting family in Maine in mid-March. They've all since recovered, but Selfridge said it's not a "get out of jail free card," and he still has questions about his family's safety. 

"There seems to be conflicting evidence whether or not recovered COVID patients have immunity and then we also don't know about different strains or mutations that could result in the future," he said.

Medical researchers who study the virus are still trying to determine whether people are protected from getting it again, and for how long that immunity might last.

To date, 1,053 people in Nova Scotia have tested positive for COVID-19 — 975 people have recovered and 59 people have died. 

How they got the virus

Selfridge and his family travelled to Sandy River, Maine, in March for a family reunion like they do most years. But what they didn't know was that a relative who was there had recently been to New York.

The relative, who's in his 80s, had a cough but not a fever, so at first Selfridge didn't think it could be COVID-19.

"I was kind of reassured because at that time one of the main symptoms that was being reported was fever. So I said, 'Well OK, he has no fever, so he seems OK,'" Selfridge said. 

But just 36 hours after the family arrived in Maine, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was telling Canadians to return home, so the Selfridges quickly left and drove back to Halifax through New Brunswick.

"We tried to have minimal contact, you know, and exercised all the other recommendations, which were handwashing, avoiding contact, those sorts of things," he said. 

When the family got back home, Selfridge said they self-isolated and soon got word that their relative had tested positive for COVID-19.

He immediately contacted public health so they could get tested too.

A total of nine family members contracted the virus from the relative in Maine, Selfridge said.

Kids were 'completely asymptomatic'

Selfridge's symptoms lasted about two days. He'd wake up in the morning with "very routine body aches and cold chills. I had no fever, no cough."

On the third morning, he woke up with a splitting headache that lasted all day, but after that felt fine. For him, having COVID-19 didn't feel much different from having the flu, although he's quick to point out that everyone experiences the virus differently. 

The only symptom his wife developed was a reduced sense of smell, which can be one of the symptoms of COVID-19.

"My kids were completely asymptomatic, so you wouldn't even have known that they had COVID," Selfridge said. "My daughter, I think, is still the only child under 10 who tested positive in Nova Scotia."

Selfridge described his symptoms as very mild, and said his kids showed no symptoms at all. (Shawn Selfridge)

Selfridge checked their temperatures and watched for symptoms every day, while also trying to put them at ease. 

"I asked them about it. They weren't concerned about it. They weren't afraid and I didn't want them to be afraid because I knew that they're going to be OK based on what I could observe in their normal behaviour," Selfridge said.

Even though they've all had COVID-19, Selfridge said he and family are still following the same rules as everybody else. They wash their hands often, practise physical distancing and spend a lot of time at home. 

To pass the time, Selfridge built a halfpipe in his backyard for his son who is learning to skateboard.

With files from CBC's Information Morning