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Dubuque man who tested positive for COVID-19 thought he had Influenza, still went to work

Jeff Spahn, a Dubuque resident who tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a trip to Vail, Colo., speaks with KCRG-TV9 via a video call on Monday, March 23, 2020. (Taylor Holt/KCRG)
Jeff Spahn, a Dubuque resident who tested positive for COVID-19 after returning from a trip to Vail, Colo., speaks with KCRG-TV9 via a video call on Monday, March 23, 2020. (Taylor Holt/KCRG)(KCRG)
Published: Mar. 23, 2020 at 4:23 PM CDT
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A man from Dubuque who self-identified as one of the people infected with COVID-19 says he was still going to work while he was sick and awaiting test results.

That decision likely exposed others to the virus, forcing them to isolate for 14 days.

"I had slight chills a little bit of achy bones, kind of like a flu, you got hit by a truck feeling and a fever of about 100.7," Jeff Spahn said.

Spahn said that's what led him to get tested for COVID-19, following a ski-trip he took to Vail, Colorado.

He came back Sunday, March 8th from that part of Colorado where the novel coronavirus is known to be spreading. He saw online the suggestion that people who were in the area during the same time he was and feeling symptoms should get tested. Two days later, those symptoms set in.

"The Iowa Department of Public Health contacts me through the [Visiting Nurse Association]," Spahn said. "That's our local point of contact and they interviewed me, gave me an interview for 15-20 minutes. They asked 'what did you do? where did you go? how did you get it? or, how do you think you got?'"

Spahn said he didn't get his positive results until nearly a week later. But in the meantime, he continued to go to work even while sick.

"I thought I had the flu, it's over, no big deal so I treated it at work. I went to work all through the week with a slight fever just thinking I had the flu. I washed my hands, and used sanitizer," Spahn said.

CDC guidelines urge that if people are feeling sick to stay home. Spahn says his doctor tested him for Covid-19 as a "precaution", thinking it was likely influenza. Spahn did not get tested for Influenza, however.

Spahn works for a private business and says he works with about 3 employees on any given day, but is never in direct contact with them because they have separate offices.

He says he was not worried about spreading what he thought was the flu to others. He says he didn't have any of the symptoms that he had been hearing were related to Covid-19, such as cough, or shortness of breath. All he experienced was a fever and aches.

When TV9 asked if his doctor told him to stay home, he said he didn't remember.

After he tested positive, Spahn said the department told him to stay in for 72 hours from the last time he had symptoms. They also told him they would contact anyone that he was in contact with who needed to get notified.

Spahn says he's recovered, but his family is now isolating as a precaution.

He says he urges people to not overreact but to take precautions not to spread the disease.

"Really, let's protect those 20 percent the people with compromised immune systems, and the very old," Spahn said."Don't have an irrational fear. Be smart, wash your hands."

TV9 did reach out to both the Iowa Department of Public Health and Dubuque County Public Health about this story. Both said they were not able to confirm identities for any of the Covid-19 cases.

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