From Iceland — Icelandic Olympian Speaks Out About Coronavirus Shame

Icelandic Olympian Speaks Out About Coronavirus Shame

Published March 25, 2020

Photo by
Hansueli Krapf/Wikimedia Commons

Icelandic Olympian pole vaulter, Þórey Edda Elísdóttir, opened up in an interview with Vísir yesterday about the shame she experienced after finding out that she could have unknowingly transmitted COVID-19 to several others in her community.

Þórey and her husband are currently both infected with COVID-19, but have no idea how they caught the virus. Þórey felt fatigue one day but attributed it to physical exercise. Her husband, meanwhile, experienced a fever, but it only lasted one day. They were then both diagnosed when their son subsequently became ill.

Unfortunately, Þórey had not been in quarantine before she received her diagnosis and had in fact often been out in public in Hvammstangi, where she lives.

Infection shame

Upon finding out she probably had COVID-19, Þórey felt an acute feeling of guilt which she described as “infection shame”.

“I felt like I had failed my community a little,” Þórey explained. Although she had no idea that she was carrying the virus, she still experienced guilt—something many COVID-19 patients can relate to.

Supporting patients

Just under half of those who tested positive for coronavirus were not in quarantine before showing symptoms or being tested, meaning they could unknowingly have spread the virus whilst in the asymptomatic stage of infection.

Stories like Þórey’s raise questions about the mental health support given to coronavirus patients. The psychological impact of isolation and infection-shame can be severe and little is currently being done to address this. Whilst health professionals are understandably focusing on patients’ physical well-being, more needs to be done regarding mental health care in these difficult times or we will see more and more reports of similar issues.

Þórey sincerely hopes she has not infected anyone. We wish her and her family a speedy recovery.

Here is the full interview:

Tune into our daily COVID-cast for more on recent coronavirus-related developments in Iceland.

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