Key points:

  • Australians Karen and Jason Honey both became infected with coronavirus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship
  • Ms Honey has suffered bouts of fever at night, regularly having to change her clothes and sheets
  • Mr Honey has had no symptoms at all, despite testing positive for the virus

“I thought my headaches and temperature [were] from that more than anything else,” she told 7.30.

It was early February and Ms Honey and her husband Jason, also 58, had spent 10 days mostly confined to their windowless cabin on the Diamond Princess docked in Yokohama, Japan.

The couple from Melbourne were in quarantine after an outbreak of the virus on the ship was publicly announced on February 1.


Karen and Jason Honey waiting it out onboard the Diamond Princess – Provided by ABC NEWS  (Supplied: Karen and Jason Honey)


They posted a video to social media while quarantined in their room, saying: “We’re stuck on this cruise ship, but we’ve got to go along with it and do the best we can.”

On February 11, Ms Honey was taken off the ship. A swab test had come back positive for COVID-19.

“That blew us both away. I thought I was clear,” she said.

“I was feeling OK.”

An ambulance took Ms Honey 120 kilometres from the ship to a hospital in Isesaki.

Mr Honey remained onboard, wandering the lonely corridors and whiling his time away with work. He took an occasional escape to the upper deck for a sneaky smoke.

In hospital, Ms Honey suffered bouts of fever, sweating through the night. The bed sheets were regularly soaked.

A few days later on Valentine’s Day, she said she felt much better.

“[That] was the first night that I didn’t wake up where I’ve had to change my clothes and the bedding because I sweated so much,” Ms Honey said.

“My temperature during the day [was] fine.”


Then Jason Honey Tested Positive

At the time, Mr Honey remained optimistic. Asked if he thought he would catch the virus after sharing the same cabin with Ms Honey, he said: “I’m as fit as a Mallee bull. I’ll be fine.”

But by February 20, Mr Honey tested positive too. It was inevitable after such close contact with his wife.

He had coronavirus without even realising that he had it.

“It’s really weird,” he said.

“I’ve got no symptoms. I feel fine. I’ve had no fevers, no coughs, no nasal problems, no aches, no pains. Nothing,” he said.

Now, Mr Honey is in hospital. He’s been there for 10 days. His wife has been there for more than three weeks.

It is no surprise to professor of global biosecurity at the University of New South Wales Raina MacIntyre who said asymptomatic transmission was making COVID-19 hard to control.

“This is the major difference with SARS,” she said.

“SARS was only infectious when people had symptoms, so you could identify someone who was infectious because they had symptoms.”

Professor MacIntyre said asymptomatic cases could be responsible for “undetected chains of transmission in the US”.

According to the World Health Organisation, COVID-19 symptoms are similar to the flu, including fever, tiredness and a dry cough.

Other signs are aches and pains, a runny nose, sore throat or diarrhea.

Some people will have symptoms, others will not and 80 per cent will recover without needing special treatment.

‘Nothing the doctors can do’

Ms Honey’s symptoms eventually disappeared and she returned a negative result, but she recently tested positive again.

That is consistent with reports from China and Japan of patients being discharged and then testing positive for the second time.

This could mean the virus is biphasic, where the virus lurks around undetected before recurring.

With no cure and no vaccine, the Honeys can only wait until their bodies defeat the virus.

“It’s just got to run its course,” Mr Honey said.

“You’ve just got to build your immunity to it. There’s nothing the doctors can do.”

Since arriving in hospital, the couple has been isolated in separate rooms, but recently they were allowed to visit each other.

In all, they have now spent more than four weeks in quarantine both on the ship and in hospital and there is no end in sight.

“Karen’s had a gutful and I’ve had a gutful too,” Mr Honey said.

“Today was not a good day mentally. It was a real struggle for Karen and for me too, for that matter.

“We very much feel like the forgotten Australians here in Japan.”


Comment – Summary:

The key to understanding this is how the virus spreads. The spread and transmission of Coronavirus amongst the populace.

Mild symptoms to no symptoms opens the door for this virus being a kind of ‘sleeper cell’, that can affect many without anyone being aware.

Government websites are still telling people to self-quarantine for just 14 days from the last date of contact with the confirmed case. They say that ‘If you begin to feel unwell and develop a fever or shortness of breath, a cough or a respiratory illness during your period of self-quarantine you should seek immediate medical attention.’ But what if you are blissfully unaware of your symptoms as Jason Honey?

  • Research from a group of Chinese scientists suggests the virus’ incubation period could be as long as 24 days.
  • Another case study found that an asymptomatic patient’s incubation period was 19 days.
  • The CDC has instituted a 14-day federal quarantine for the US citizens evacuated from Wuhan.
  • But these recent studies raise doubts about whether that’s long enough.

For most people, a number of clinical symptoms are identified. These symptoms include:

  • fever
  • a cough
  • sore throat
  • fatigue
  • shortness of breath.

Anyone with these symptoms who has travelled to or through mainland China, Iran or South Korea in the past 14 days should see a doctor immediately. Before your appointment, please call ahead and advise of your symptoms and recent travel so that necessary precautions can be undertaken.

People with suspected novel coronavirus will be tested and may also need to have a chest x-ray.

There is no specific treatment for COVID-19 infection. Antibiotics are not effective against viral infections. However, most of the symptoms can be treated with supportive medical care.

There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus.

Novel coronavirus is transmitted from person to person, usually when an infected person coughs or sneezes. Transmission may occur from contaminated surfaces, so it is important to frequently wash your hands.

To protect yourself and others from infection practice good hand and respiratory hygiene including:

  • cleaning hands with soap and water or alcohol-based hand rubs for at least 20 secs under running water.
  • covering your nose and mouth with a tissue or flexed elbow when coughing or sneezing
  • avoiding contact with anyone who has symptoms such as fever, a cough, sore throat, fatigue, and shortness of breath.
  • staying home if you are unwell.