By Kathy Brown.
(March 27, 2020) — I first read about the Killingworth COVID-19 case on the Shoreline Times, and the article said that the patient’s symptoms were “atypical.” It made me curious to learn more from someone who has tested positive for the disease that is responsible for keeping most of us in our houses for the foreseeable future.
I was able to speak with patient 2 in Killingworth (who spoke with us on the condition of anonymity), a woman in her ’50s who was exposed to someone else with COVID-19 at her place of employment. On Wednesday, March 11, 2020, someone at the patient’s place of employment had a fever and body aches. That person was sent home. The next day, someone else developed a fever. On Saturday, March 14, Patient 2 started having body aches, chills, and a headache. Her temperature only went up to 99F, and she had a “tickle in my throat which would cause me to cough once or twice just to clear it.” She thought maybe the aches were from working outside, and the headache could have been from allergies. “Since I did not have a cough or high fever, I did not think it was COVID-19.” However, over the next couple of days, she became fatigued, she still had the body aches, and “my head felt like it was going to explode with pressure.”
On Tuesday, March 17, people received word that the first person at work had tested positive to COVID-19. “That’s when I called my PCP [primary care physician],” said Patient 2. “He said he would send me for testing since there was obvious exposure and I was showing symptoms.” She questioned whether a positive test would change anything that she was doing, so she opted not to test at first. Her doctor told her to isolate herself in a room and bathroom away from the rest of the family, to decrease the odds of the rest of the family getting it, and the rest of the family should also isolate themselves for 14 days just in case. She later contemplated getting the test, because “it would provide data as to what the disease looks like, [so] I called my PCP back and asked for testing.” Two others where she worked were tested, and “a handful of others were showing symptoms.”
On Wednesday, March 18, she received a call giving her options for testing, and she drove to New London, and received the test. She also lost her sense of smell and taste that day.
On Friday, March 20, Patient 2 received a call from her PCP confirming that her COVID-19 test was positive. “It was a terrible frightening feeling not knowing what the future was going to mean and to hear my family all together having dinner, watching TV together, and joking while I was isolated [in another part of the house]. Also, the person at work was since hospitalized due to respiratory distress. It was too much to handle.”
She has been biding her time in her room – cleaning, organizing her closet, “watching way too much TV,” and doing a puzzle insert from the Hartford Courant that was in the Sunday newspaper.
On Wednesday, March 25, 2020, Patient 2 got her sense of smell back. “I have never been more excited for something so little,” she said.
Soon her fourteen days of quarantine will be over. She is following CDC guidelines, however, she said, “The CDC guidelines for coming out of quarantine are not very clear. The three conditions to end self quarantine are 1. No fever for 72 hours, 2. Symptoms are better, 3. Seven days from symptom onset.” If you didn’t have a fever in the first place, and your symptoms aren’t even the same as the symptoms that are listed, it makes decisions difficult. “I consider myself responsible and we are not going to go out, but these guidelines do not seem to be ones that will prevent spread of the virus.”
There is much information on COVID-19 to sift through online, and many of the studies are as yet, not peer reviewed. The German study mentioned in this article had not been peer reviewed yet, but found that, ” the scientists could not grow viruses from throat swabs or sputum specimens after day 8 of illness from people who had mild infections.” That study also found that “researches found very high levels of virus emitted from the throat of patients from the earliest point in their illness — when people are generally still going about their daily routines.” However, the Chinese study mentioned in this article said, “Doctors in China detected novel coronavirus RNA in respiratory samples from survivors for as long as 37 days, with a median of 20 days, after they became infected.”
The CDC is still saying the symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath, even though first person accounts of the illness is showing a much more varied symptom range. According to this CNN story that came out two days ago, there are also cold and flu symptoms such as: headaches, digestive issues, runny nose, sore throat, sneezing, body aches, and fatigue, as well as a symptom that was recently noticed by the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery, a loss of sense of smell and taste, which our patient in Killingworth had.
“Doctors are still following the idea that no fever and no cough means no illness, which is wrong,” she said. “Plus I feel it is irresponsible because there are probably many other people who are going about their lives unknowingly infecting others since they do not think they have COVID-19 because they do not have the three symptoms. Even Killingworth notices say the symptoms are fever, cough, and shortness of breath. I did not have any of those.”
Stay home. Stay safe.