- In March, my roommate and I both got sick — we had headaches, fatigue, coughs, and shortness of breath for two weeks. I even had “COVID toes.”
- We figured we both had mild cases of the coronavirus, but never got tested because of testing shortages at the time.
- I got an antibody test this week to find out whether I might now be immune to the coronavirus.
- But my results showed that my antibody counts were under the threshold required to test positive, leaving me with even more questions.
- Here’s what the experience was like.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
When the Bay Area issued its shelter-in-place order on March 17, my three roommates and I started preparing to spend the next month together in our small apartment.
But then two of us started experiencing COVID-19 symptoms: headaches, coughs, fatigue, and shortness of breath. I even had a symptom now deemed “COVID toes” — the middle three toes on both my feet turned deep red and purple, swelling and becoming itchy. (At the time, I didn’t realize that was related to my other symptoms, however.)
I called my doctor around day seven of the illness, but she advised against coming in for a test. Because my symptoms didn’t require critical medical attention, she said, it wasn’t worth going to a medical facility to get tested, since there weren’t many available tests and I could risk more potential exposure to the virus.
My roommate and I both self-isolated, recovered at home, and felt almost back to normal about two weeks later.
But we’ve been left wondering whether the illness we had was COVID-19.
So this week, I took an antibody test, also known as a serological test, which can detect coronavirus-neutralizing antibodies in the bloodstream.
These tests promise answers for the many people like me who experienced coronavirus symptoms but were unable to confirm a diagnosis. They also offer epidemiologists a better sense of the virus’ true spread.
But I knew from my own reporting that there are plenty of reasons to be wary. For one, many companies have been offering tests that aren’t approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The one I took, from Diazyme Laboratories, Inc., was submitted for FDA authorization but hasn’t gotten it yet. In addition, one study found that 6% of recovered coronavirus patients didn’t develop antibodies at all, and younger people tended to have lower levels of antibodies than older patients.
I opted for an antibody test anyway, however, hoping to get confirmation that I’d had the virus and am now immune. But my test came back negative, leaving me with even more questions.
Here’s what the experience was like.
I joined Business Insider as a reporting fellow in early January to cover science. In a meeting with the team on my first day, my editor said, “So, we’re getting reports about a new virus in China.”
Soon, I was covering the coronavirus every day. A couple of months later, I wound up living it, too — or so I thought.
I live in the Bay Area, where the first case of community spread in the US was reported at the end of February. That news indicated that there were already hundreds, if not thousands, of cases here.
The virus’ spread seems to have started even earlier than that, however. This week, Santa Clara county — which is about an hour away from where I live — found through autopsies that two people who died in their homes on February 6 and 17 tested positive for the coronavirus. (Previously, the US’s first coronavirus death was thought to have happened on February 29.)
Gov. Gavin Newsom has asked coroners to review records and conduct autopsies back to December to look for infections.
One morning during my first week working from home, I woke up with a pounding headache, sore throat, and tight chest. Strangely, the middle three toes on both of my feet had turned purple. Something under the skin felt hot and itchy.
My symptoms were relatively mild, but they were still painful and uncomfortable.
My roommate came down with a fever and cough around the same time. Over the next week, our symptoms worsened. My roommate would get out of breath walking up the stairs, and I felt phlegm coming up out of my lungs.
I spoke with my doctor, and she advised against coming in for a diagnostic test, due to limited test availability and the mildness of my symptoms. So I recovered at home and both felt mostly back to normal about two weeks later. It was still harder than normal to breathe for another week or two, though.
The form said the results should not be used as the sole basis to diagnose or exclude SARS-CoV-2 (the scientific name of the virus).
Several recent studies have raised questions about how often coronavirus patients develop antibodies — and whether everyone develops them to a sufficient level to confer immunity. A recent paper (a pre-print that is not yet peer-reviewed) tested recovered patients who had mild coronavirus cases to see how many antibodies they produced.
It found that patients produced differing levels of antibodies, with elderly and middle-aged people developing higher levels of antibodies on average. The researchers also discovered that 10 patients out of the 175 studied — roughly 6% — didn’t develop any detectable antibodies at all.
Most of those without detectable levels of antibodies were younger.
I’m 24, so I figured there was a chance that I could have gotten the coronavirus but not developed antibodies to a detectable level.
The lab technician told me he’s been doing blood tests for years. ARCpoint Labs usually conducts clinical drug and paternity tests.
Still, I’m not very good with needles, so I was nervous about the test.
ARCpoint Labs drew a vial of my blood, which would then get sent to an ARCPoint Labs partner lab in Florida, called Access Medical, which has the capability to process the Diazyme Laboratories antibody test.
According to the Diazyme Laboratories website, its coronavirus antibody test detects two kinds of antibodies: IgM and IgG.
The test’s accuracy for negative specimens ranges, according to the company: For IgM, its sensitivity is about 90% and specificity is 98%. For IgG, its sensitivity and specificity are 96%.
Sensitivity refers to how many negatives the test catches, and specificity refers to how many samples the test says are positive that are actually negative.
So with IgM antibodies, this test catches about 90% of samples that are negative, but misses about 10%. About 2% of the negatives it gives are false. For IgG, it misses about 4% of negative samples, and 4% of its negatives are false.
These numbers haven’t been independently verified, though.
The technician told me I’d receive my results in about 48 hours. A couple days later, they came: I had tested negative.
I was disappointed and confused.
Even if my antibody test had come back positive, however, there would still have been questions about my immunity, since scientists aren’t sure how long the protection lasts.
Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on April 7 that people who recover from the coronavirus will likely be immune should a second wave of infection spread in the early fall.
“Generally we know with infections like this, that at least for a reasonable period of time, you’re gonna have antibodies that are going to be protective,” he said.
But because the virus is so new, how long that period of time lasts for recovered COVID-19 patients is still unknown.
I had hoped a serology test would give me clarity about how to move forward.
A positive result would have made me feel more comfortable in public places, allowed me to pursue ways to volunteer to help others, and might even have indicated that I could donate plasma to patients with severe cases.
Instead, I was left with more questions.
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Mother mystified by Winnipeg toddler's 'terrifying' condition after coming down with COVID-19 – CBC.ca
Doctors are investigating the case of a Winnipeg toddler with symptoms suggesting a rare, inflammatory illness potentially linked to COVID-19, the girl’s mother says.
And the child is fighting to recover, even after she no longer tested positive for the disease.
The mother says health-care providers treating her daughter are concerned the girl may have developed Kawasaki disease, or multi-system inflammatory syndrome in children, also called MIS-C.
The inflammatory syndromes can result from the body’s reaction to new viruses — not just the new coronavirus. But doctors in Canada, and scientists around the world, are investigating cases for a link to COVID-19.
Public health officials in Manitoba say no cases of the conditions connected with COVID-19 have been confirmed in the province so far.
“Honestly, it’s just terrifying. I don’t have the answers. Doctors don’t have the answers,” said the girl’s mother, who CBC is not naming due to concern about stigma.
“We’re just trying to do anything we can.”
It’s been more than a month since the one-year-old girl tested positive for COVID-19 in late April, the mother said. She believes her daughter was infected after her husband was exposed to a co-worker who later tested positive.
At first, her parents didn’t know what to make of the little girl’s symptoms. She had a red, puffy rash, vomiting and diarrhea, a tender abdomen and a recurring fever that spiked to 102 F.
“She refused to eat, barely had anything to drink,” said her mother.
Before they knew about her husband’s COVID-19 exposure, pediatricians contacted via Zoom were cautious about sending the child to a hospital, and told the mother to try Tylenol, thinking the girl had a flu.
WATCH | Toronto doctor answers questions about inflammatory syndrome following COVID-19
The family learned of the workplace exposure on April 28, two days after the symptoms arose, and went for testing immediately. Blood work done at the Children’s Hospital at the Health Sciences Centre confirmed the toddler had COVID-19.
At that point, Manitoba had fewer than 25 active cases of the disease caused by the new coronavirus. The province was already announcing plans for reopening.
“It was absolutely devastating,” the mother said.
“You see your child kind of deteriorating, and you kind of think, it could be something different,” she said. “How could it possibly be COVID … with the cases being so low?”
Wish to take the pain away
Hospitals in Ontario, Quebec, B.C. and Alberta are examining possible cases of MIS-C. Experts say the illness is difficult to diagnose and many cases remain ill-defined.
“There are way more unknowns than knowns,” said Dr. Rae Yeung, a professor of pediatrics, immunology and medical sciences at the University of Toronto, and staff pediatrician and rheumatologist at the Hospital for Sick Children.
“Right now, the big challenge is that there is not one diagnostic test … that can actually tell us whether a child has MIS-C or Kawasaki disease, [which are] all one hyper-inflammatory syndrome,” said Yeung, who is also a senior scientist in cell biology research.
“As we’re learning, the one common denominator is that they have massive immune activation. But many things can cause massive immune activation.”
When she’s not sick, the Winnipeg 21-month-old is “very chatty. She’s energetic, running around,” said her mother. “She’s your typical toddler. She is always happy — except for when she’s teething, of course.”
COVID-19 sucked that energy away.
“She started sleeping more and more, to the point where she was only awake approximately three hours in a 24-hour period,” her mother said.
After she tested positive, doctors admitted the toddler to the hospital and put her on IV fluids and antibiotics. Medical staff did X-rays, ultrasounds, urinalysis and blood work, trying to rule out anything else that may have been making her sicker.
Initially, doctors hoped her body could fight off the disease on its own, her mother said. But the family has been in and out of the hospital for weeks as her condition remained serious.
Last week, the toddler’s condition took a turn for the worse. Her mother said it was like being “back to Square 1” — but when she brought her back to the hospital, on May 28, tests showed her daughter is now negative for COVID-19, and fighting a new medical battle.
That was the day doctors first raised the possibility of MIS-C or Kawasaki, the mother said. The toddler was also diagnosed with sepsis and a severe urinary tract infection, and prescribed a strong antibiotic — but on Thursday, one week into a 10-day prescription, there was little improvement.
Now, the mother said doctors will begin further tests to help understand exactly what is making her daughter so ill.
“You just kind of feel helpless because you can’t make [your children] feel better — and that’s kind of your job as a mother,” she said.
“You don’t want to see them sick, especially with something so serious as a pandemic. You just wish you could take their pain away.”
The syndrome with many names
Yeung calls MIS-C “the syndrome with many different names,” because depending on where you are in the world, it might be called different things.
“I think this is part of the reason why it’s led to some confusion and a lot of anxiety, in fact, among not only families, but also caregivers and health-care professionals,” she said.
Much of what’s known so far about the disease remains hypothetical, she said, and research is needed to understand more. At its core, the syndrome — and Kawasaki disease, which is part and parcel of the same family of illnesses — can be characterized by inflammation, especially in blood vessels, caused by a hyperactivation of the immune system.
“What we’re seeing in all of these syndromes is hyper inflammation — just an overactive immune system that’s gone into overdrive, affecting multiple organs in the body,” she said.
The illnesses in that family are triggered by a “tickle” to the immune system, Yeung said, which can be anything from strep throat to the novel coronavirus. Canada documents roughly 100 to 150 cases of Kawasaki disease a year, for example, she said.
But epidemiology in Europe, the U.S. and Canada has suggested a pattern, as cases of inflammatory syndromes in children emerge roughly four to six weeks following the peak coronavirus outbreak in each population.
Many, even most, of the children diagnosed with these illnesses don’t initially test positive when swabbed for COVID-19, Yeung said, but bloodwork often shows the children had the disease previously.
It’s still not clear exactly how many cases of the inflammatory illness there are in Canada, Yeung said. At the Sick Kids hospital in Toronto, where she works, she said they’re seeing roughly three to four times the volume of these illnesses over normal years.
She’s helping lead research, in partnership with the Canadian Paediatric Society and the Public Health Agency of Canada, to work with doctors across the country to determine where cases are and help understand them better.
“I think sharing knowledge and alerting the public is a very important component of this, so that people are alert and aren’t afraid to come to the hospital,” Yeung said. “I don’t want people to avoid coming to the hospital if their child is sick and has prolonged fever. They need to seek appropriate medical attention.”
BlackburnNews.com – Six more COVID-19 recoveries in Lambton – BlackburnNews.com
Six more COVID-19 recoveries in Lambton
June 6, 2020 7:02am
Lambton Public Health is reporting six more COVID-19 recoveries.
The health unit reported Friday night that of 267 confirmed cases, 223 have now recovered.
The death toll remains unchanged since Tuesday at 24.
Lambton Public Health has now received the results from 7,861 tests, 96 per cent of which have been negative for COVID-19.
Bluewater Health reported Friday that 12 patients were in hospital confirmed to have the virus, and 26 were in hospital suspected of having it with tests pending.
Trucker brings in another case of COVID-19 as two new cases emerge Friday – Winnipeg Sun
Another case of COVID-19 in a truck driver, and one in a close household contact of that driver, were reported by public health officials on Friday.
The two new cases bring the province’s total to an even 300 since the outbreak began in early March. The cases are both from Winnipeg. One is in a man in his 30s and another in a man in his 20s.
Dr. Brent Roussin, Manitoba’s chief public health officer, said the trucker who tested positive had travelled outside of the province.
Other details were sparse, including if the driver had self-isolated or not.
“I don’t have a lot of details on that as of yet, the public health investigation is ongoing,” Roussin said.
Last week, two cases in truck drivers that had travelled into the U.S. for work were also reported.
Roussin said no new measures are going to be implemented in terms of testing truck drivers or requiring them to self-isolate upon return from international or domestic travel.
Currently, all truck drivers can access asymptomatic testing, but Roussin said they cannot disrupt supply chains into the province.
The province’s active caseload jumped to nine with the two new cases as no new recoveries were announced. There have been 284 total recoveries thus far.
The death toll in Manitoba remains at seven, and no one is in hospital at the moment.
The Cadham Provincial Laboratory processed 671 tests on Thursday, bringing the running total since early February to 47,372.
Meanwhile, changes to the hours of operation at community testing sites in Brandon, Portage la Prairie, Steinbach and Winkler, as well as at Thunderbird House in Winnipeg, come into effect this weekend.
Due to low patient volumes, these sites are now closed on Sundays.
KNOWLEDGE, ROAD TESTS RESUME
Manitoba Public Insurance is resuming knowledge tests for all licence classes and road test bookings for Class 1 licences effective immediately, a release said on Friday.
Customers are encouraged to book Class 5 and 6 knowledge tests online. For those who cannot book online, MPI is allowing customers who phone their Autopac agent to perform certain critical transactions over the phone or by email.
For Class 1 road tests, drivers will be required to provide and wear their own mask, be screened prior to the test and sanitize all touchpoints in their vehicle.
Knowledge test customers will be asked to arrive on-site 15 minutes prior to their appointment.
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