‘Patient Zero’ – Following the viral exposure of a Covid-19 sports cluster

A coronavirus outbreak that started in a Tuusula ice hockey team has spread, with amateur athletes in two other sports in Vantaa and Espoo self-isolating after possible exposures.

File picture of KJT hockey team jerseys / Credit: FB

When Roni Klemola went to play ice hockey on Friday 4th September he was feeling completely fine. The 23-year old forward wasn’t under the weather at all at the rink, with no suspicions he might have coronavirus before he went to skate, and nobody on his team had been sick either.

Over the next two days Klemola, who is studying to be a plumber, went about his weekend as normal but when he woke up the following Monday morning he was suffering from classic Covid-19 symptoms.

“I had mild fever 37.3°C was the maximum, and it didn’t rise up. Headache, muscle ache, and my skin was aching all the time, a touch-related ache” Roni Klemola explains. His sense of taste was fine at first, but over the next 10 days it has become desensitised to strong flavours.

Klemola booked a Covid-19 test the day after his symptoms appeared and became the first player on his amateur hockey team to test positive. There are now at least seven confirmed cases among other players on KJT Haukat which plays in the local fourth division competition.

“I think I was the first one! I was the first one who got the symptoms, and I have no idea where I got it from. I could pick it up anywhere, shop, ice halls, I don’t know really where I got it” Klemola tells News Now Finland in a phone call as he continues his recovery.

“A couple of other players got sick and went to get tests, and then got positive results from there. I was the first one to know I had Covid-19 and then I told it to my team and then they started to test and that’s how they found it” he explains.

File picture of Roni Klemola / Credit: Self

Health authorities send mass exposure alerts

In the wake of the KJT Haukat viral cluster the local healthcare authority Central Uusimaa Health issued a warning of two possible mass exposures at local ice rinks.

“Exposures to coronavirus have occured in Järvenpää at Järvenpää Ice Rink and in Tuusula at Hyrylä Ice Rink in young adult hockey teams” the health authority says, adding that anyone who visited either location on specific dates should monitor their health symptoms, especially those aged 20-23.

“Team hobbies are generally considered a risky environment for the spread of the coronavirus. We continue to remind you that you should not go to sports and hobbies if you have any symptoms” officials say.

The whole of KJT Haukat is currently self-isolating and monitoring for symptoms, although nobody beyond those seven players seems to have gotten sick.

“My girlfriend is not sick and we have been at the same house over a week now. I am sick, and she is healthy” says player Roni Klemola.

Potential spreads between sports and cities

While nobody else has so far tested positive outside the hockey team, the potential spread of this virus shows how easily it can travel including to players on three different sports teams in two different cities.

One of the infected hockey players also played in the Vantaa Block League football tournament on Thursday 10th September so 23 players from three teams are now in self-isolation because of exposure there.

“It is good to remember that any sports event, be it a block league or your own hobby sport, should not be attended if you have even the slightest symptoms. In the current coronavirus situation, everyone needs to be responsible when they’re deciding whether to participate or not” says City of Vantaa’s Sports Director Veli-Matti Kallislahti.

With a connection from the original ice hockey team now impacting football teams as well, the virus could also have been carried to a third sport.

File picture of Juri Podschivalow / Credit: Self

Juri Podschivalow is friends with three of the KJT Haukat ice hockey players who got confirmed diagnosis and he’s currently self-isolating waiting for test results.

Although he doesn’t play on the same hockey team, he met with his friends in Vantaa after they were likely exposed to the virus but before they or anyone at their club was showing any symptoms.

The following week Podschivalow went to two rugby trainings in Espoo where he plays for the amateur Espoo Rugby Club team, and was on the squad last Saturday when they played a Helsinki team.

The following morning Podschivalow got a notification via the koronavilkku app that he had been exposed to the virus and he’s self-isolating waiting on results that could also mean his whole rugby team and potentially their weekend opponents, also has to self-isolate.

He booked a Monday morning test with only mild symptoms and is still waiting on results, but by Wednesday morning he has full-blown flu symptoms.

“I think the app works. Of course it doesn’t tell where I got exposed or anything, but I think it works” Podschivalow tells News Now Finland.

“I still haven’t got the results but they won’t take me for a new test until I get the results and I have a new job starting on Monday and that’s a bad thing!”

Timeline of sports coronavirus exposures / Credit: News Now Finland