Mich. woman who had coronavirus: it's like pneumonia but there's no treatment

It started with a cough and a runny nose for Kellie Gillenkirk. That was a few days before Christmas in 2018, and then on Christmas Day she woke up and could barely breathe. A few weeks later, the 51-year-old grandmother was diagnosed with a strain of coronavirus, different than the strain that's spreading now out of Wuhan, China

"I have had pneumonia where I was off for two months. I've had three children and I've had two heart attacks and I've never been as sick as I was during that coronavirus," she says. She was sidelined for more than a month. 

"I was sick for five to six straight weeks, and for four weeks of it I never really got out of bed," she says. 

Confirmed cases of coronavirus around the globe have skyrocketed since Chinese health officials first identified the virus January 7.  Now more than 6,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus have been confirmed worldwide. 

In an effort to keep the bug from exploding here, the Centers for Disease Control is screening certain travelers at several airports including Detroit Metropolitan Airport in Romulus. People with a connection to Wuhan, China, where the outbreak began, or those who recently traveled to china and have symptoms of the virus will be vetted.

Gillenkirk went nearly two weeks with her symptoms before her husband urged her to go to the University of Michigan Hospital emergency room, where she says a doctor diagnosed her with the coronavirus.

"At first I laughed at the doctor, I said, 'Well I don't even drink,' you know? I was joking about it," she says. "Then my doctor started reading me the riot act because of my previous heart problems, he said it's a very serious illness: it's like the pneumonia except there's no treatment, you should've been in here weeks ago."

No, Corona beer is not linked to China’s coronavirus outbreak

Gillenkirk thinks she may have contracted the bug while working at a restaurant that sees a lot of traffic from both Detroit Metro and Toledo airports.

Gillenkirk's advice on avoiding the bug: 

"I think the handwashing is a good thing, but as a server at that time I washed my hands continually and I still got it," she says. "So I think more than anything it's touching your face. It's touching a surface and seconds later putting your hands on your face."

FOX 2 reported on this story from Southfield, Mich.