Everyone should consider themselves and their loved ones at risk of catching COVID-19. Even if your state does not have stay in shelter mandate, do future you a favor and self-quarantine now. According to the live, real-time tracking of COVID-19, your area is most likely only days behind California. We must all act now and follow these drastic measures if we even have a shot at flattening the curve in the US.
I urge you to take 7 minutes to read this post. I’m sharing my story because I don’t want anyone to dismiss their early symptoms as I did. Because there is a likelihood that you don’t have allergies, a little cold, or a bad stomach bug. It could very well be COVID-19.
Bottom line is: according to WHO, in the early stages of COVID-19, you might only feel slightly sick, maybe a bit feverish and never have a temperature above 99.5
When I first began having symptoms, it merely felt like I had a case of hay fever. I had a slight itch in my throat that would cause a cough here and there, and I had a runny nose, but nothing a little allergy medication couldn’t help. I also felt a bit tired and feverish, but I didn’t have a temperature.
I felt like my symptoms were starting to improve, so I went about my business. Just a few days later, my “hay fever” was back even stronger than before, but I also started having symptoms that felt like food poisoning. I was extremely fatigued, my throat was sorer, and now I had started to have nausea, diarrhea, and lost my appetite.
I felt feverish on and off, but every time I took my temperature, it was always around 99.8. I chose to self-quarantine because I knew something wasn’t quite right, and I called my doctor.
Within just a few days, I went from feeling ok to being absolutely knocked on my ass. My muscles ached and literally didn’t have the energy to even move. I would periodically fall asleep throughout the day because I was simply exhausted. And the dull headache that had been in the back of my head for two weeks suddenly grew into a painful sensation that wouldn’t even allow me to think. My temperature reached 100.3.
Stanford started the triage process. According to the doctor, my symptoms sounded like COVID-19, but my body also seemed to be fighting it. With a limited supply of tests, my doctor and I made the decision to wait and see how my symptoms progressed.
In less than 24 hours, I felt like a 20-pound child was sitting on my chest, and it was difficult to breathe. That’s when I was told to immediately head into Stanford’s ER, where I was quickly moved into a quarantine room for infectious disease.
I had a documented timeline of my symptoms, along with vitals that I had shared upon my admission. The infectious disease doctor treating me at Stanford said that I had all of the symptoms of COVID-19, including the “rare” ones for well over two weeks. He said that I would be treated as if I had COVID-19 regardless of whether the test result was positive or negative.
That is when I learned that tests that come back as negative are not really reliable and that there is no current baseline for the COVID-19 testing. (Update 4/16/2020: New tests have now been developed that are 96-98% accurate compared to the old tests that were 55-65% accurate.)
Doctors at Harvard have concluded this as well:
“If a test result comes back positive, it is almost sure that the person is infected. A negative test result is less definite. An infected person could get a so-called “false negative” test result if the swab missed the virus, for example, or because of an inadequacy of the test itself. We also don’t yet know at what point during illness; a test becomes positive.”
Although my body had been fighting the upper respiratory infection (URI), the doctor was still concerned about how it might progress. He told me he had already seen many young, relatively healthy patients come in with COVID-19 symptoms, but because they did not have breathing issues, they were sent home. My doctor said many of these young patients within days, sometimes hours, were readmitted and put on ventilators.
His warning to me was that although many people might have COVID-19 and not experience severe symptoms, at the end of the day, no matter how good someone thinks they are feeling, things can turn to the worst at a moment’s notice.
I was sent home with a lot of medicine to keep my lungs strong and treat the symptoms. I was told to rest as much as possible, stay hydrated, take Tylenol, and my inhalers proactively around the clock. My test took over four days to be processed, and it came back negative. Regardless, I followed my doctor’s orders to self-quarantine so that others would not be exposed—especially on the chance that I had a “false negative” and was contagious for COVID-19.
I have been fortunate. The medicine to treat the symptoms of the URI has helped tremendously, and my body is fighting it. I feel better overall, but any time I feel chills or feverish, I immediately stop what I am doing and sleep.
Unfortunately, many will not be so lucky. This virus hasn’t been discriminatory about whom it will affect. The deaths being reported aren’t just the elderly—it’s people in their 50s and young people under the age of 40—some who might not have realized that their childhood asthma put them at a higher risk.
COVID-19 is an organism that experts still don’t fully understand. Healthcare providers don’t yet have a clear baseline of how it affects people or how it will mutate. And with unreliable false negatives, it is hard to stop its spread.
That is why it is imperative that we collectively stop viewing this virus with such a cavalier attitude and immediately heed the warnings we are being given. The worst that can happen is we have a long staycation in our homes. The best that can happen is we stop a pandemic from taking a more significant number of lives.
Lives that have names of people you love. Maybe even your own.
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