An entire family has been struck down with coronavirus after 17 members caught the illness at a recent funeral.

Sheila Brooks, 86, passed away last month and her extended family attended the severe two weeks ago.

Within days of the laying Sheila to rest, her niece, Susan Nelson, 65, who had no underlying health conditions, fell ill and died of suspected coronavirus.

The retired sandwich shop owner, from the West Midlands, even died on the same hospital ward as her beloved aunt.

Now, a further 16 members of the same family all suspect they have the virus – including Susan’s husband, daughter, a niece and a great-uncle.

Susan's daughter Amanda, 34, from Halesowen, said: “It was my great aunt’s funeral so a lot of the wider family were there.

“She died back in February, but we have just had so many people contract the virus that I can only think it was from then.

“We now have someone else in our family in hospital that's probably not going to survive it.

“My 21-year-old cousin has it, right the way up to a great uncle that is 88 and is showing some symptoms.

“Its a whole section of us, none of us seem to have been missed out of it just yet. It's a bit strange.

“I would say around 17 family members have been displaying symptoms since going to that funeral. It’s hit young and old in our family.

“Our beautiful, caring mum was the centre of the family – we are a very close, large family and this has destroyed us.”

Susan’s family were forced to call an ambulance a week after the funeral, and she died at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham with her husband Robert at her side.

Of his mum’s tragic death, Susan’s son Carl said: “She was coughing a lot, very breathless and showing all the traditional symptoms.

“She was admitted to hospital on Monday (16/03) and I spoke to the hospital staff the following day.

“They said the next 48 hours were critical before they called me back a few hours later to say it was very close to the end and one member of the family could be with her.

“Because I had none of the symptoms, I couldn’t go and my sister was too unwell battling the illness herself.

“People can end up dying on their own. Fortunately, my dad Robert was able to go and be with her when she died."

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He added: “She started showing serious symptoms on Thursday and being dead the early hours of the Tuesday morning shows how quickly this can escalate.”

“I managed to speak to her on the phone when my dad got there and all she wanted was for me to come down.

“I had my suitcase packed ready to head down, but the hospital were telling me I wasn't allowed.

“I had to tell her they wouldn't let me and I weren’t allowed to see her. I didn't want her to die thinking that I didn't want to come.

“We have got to beat it and we can't have any other families to go through what we are going through at the moment.

“It’s about getting the message out. It's about seeing the faces of loved ones and thinking this is real.”

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The family are now unable to make proper funeral arrangements due to strict social-distancing measures enforced by the government.

Carl said the family has been “limited to six people” at the funeral but “that could change” as “all” of the family are isolated.

In recognition to NHS workers who tried to save their mum, the family have set up a Just Giving page with proceeds going to the hospital.

He said: "In the conditions, they are working under, it's phenomenal. My dad described it as a living hell.

"What they are facing on a day to day basis, no one truly understands or appreciates what they put into their job.

If we can all just do something little that goes to them, that they can benefit from and just to say thank you, it would be great. My family are all grateful for the work they did.

"They couldn't save mum but they gave everything to do so and made her comfortable in the end.

"Even the follow-up conversations that I have had, despite how much pressure they are under, the doctor took the time to call me back and explain things to me.

"I couldn't ask for anymore. The fundraising page has exceeded our expectations already. The generosity of people has been staggering, even in these tough times."

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