It turns out my family
and I caught the 'rona sometime back in February. My four year old came down with a fever and some throat discomfort, my wife followed shortly after with a fever, muscle aches, fatigue and a sore throat, and I was the last to come down with similar symptoms. This was early February, so while people were aware of its existence, we were all really only concerned with toilet paper. To be honest, it felt like a mild flu without the nausea component. I had some "elective" surgery scheduled from a plane crash I experienced that then got delayed, but when they finally started accepting non-COVID patients again, I took the nasal swab test which came back negative. At that time, the antibody test wasn't really a thing yet. I had a few days of fever after my surgery and took the test again with negative results. As far as my wife and I knew, we had yet to experience it first hand.
Fast forward to the present day, and in the course of an unrelated medical
appointment, my wife received the antibody test, and lo and behold it came back positive. I didn't really know how to process that result at the time- I was naturally worried about the unknown/not yet understood "long-term" effects of the virus. Was our longevity now all now compromised? The information, combined with equal doses of misinformation, and unknowns surrounding this pathogen make it virtually impossible to understand and evaluate the FACTS.
But after a discussion with a friend of mine who, beyond being a physician is also a pretty astute observer of the human condition, I may have the beginnings of a working theory worthy of discussion.
SARS was a coronavirus, and also essentially a bit of a death sentence. It apparently had a fantastically high fatality rate. So when medical
porfessionals saw a novel coronavirus on the loose, the severity of the response may have been influenced by the unknowns surrounding this new virus aggravated by the knowns associated with SARS. In that light, it certainly seems like a rational albeit significant response given potential impact of a SARS re-run. SARS burned itself out because it was slightly too effective at killing its hosts. They didn't survive to interact with others sufficient to propagate it. (Potential clue here: COVID-19 is obviously highly effective, but its global spread gives credence to the idea that it, in and of itself may not be as deadly a pathogen as SARS). So that certainly explains the almost inexplicable "perceived" over-reaction (i.e. shutting down entire economies, etc) our officials enacted. They couldn't have known, but this could have been a pathogen with SARS-like fatality rates and an even higher R0 value.
Of course, given the current
state of the world, that made this the perfect fodder for hyper-politicization. That in and of itself spread more prolifically than the virus. You can't say a thing about this illness without being accused of being a shill for "the other side". The political bickering surrounding all of this in every news outlet, forum, bar, household, any venue, you name it, is comical, if not tiresome to watch as a disinterested third party.
So now, thoughts on the virus itself... or the human body's response to it. What if the scary long-term effects of the virus are not the result of the scary, unknown novel virus itself? What if it was our own body causing the damage in its response to the viral infection? The net result is the same, it's still terribly debilitating to those suffering the severe effects, but I think the following, if correct, could really further our collective understanding of this virus (and assuming we could put politics aside [we can't], could drive a more effective response).
The immune systems responds to pathogens in a number of waves (medical professionals in the forum please feel free to better explain this part; while I've maintained a working knowledge it was better explained to me by my buddy). There are innate immunity responses, inflammation (key to this discussion), cell-mediated immunity, and an immunity memory function. In many people, the virus can be eliminated in the earliest phases of the immuno-response, but in others (and from what I've learned, this is the BIG lingering unknown with this virus) the immune system goes into hyper-drive causing the life-threatening conditions we're all familiar with.
This virus does accumulate in the lungs apparently, but it's the severity of the immune system's response in some people that causes the fibrosis and/or pooling of fluid that's causing the O2 saturization rate issues. It also causes the nervous system damage as the immunoresponse causes severe inflammation-related issues.
The take-away from my discussion was that we don't know who will be susceptible to the immune system over-reaction though some factors are beginning to emerge (time will improve our knowledge there). But I've been told that the CDC does not yet have a single
case of someone getting reinfected and having a more severe response than they had the first time around, and there are apparently no known cases of death upon reinfection. THe idea is that you're either one of those folks who will overreact to it upon infection, or you aren't. Crapshoot on which category you fall into, diabetes, obesity, genetic factors, etc, all seem to play a part from the data, but the true common thread remains to be seen).
There are huge implications to any information that emerges pertaining to this stupid bug, but I wanted to share my experience with it and the subsequent discussion I had with a medical professional friend that I found particularly enlightening as I feel it would make good material for a forum food
fight (intended lightheartedly).
Disclaimer because it's 2020: I am apolitical, I don't have the time or energy to devote an ounce of my life to political leanings. I know this illness has robbed people of their lives, and for some, as outlined above, it is absolutely deadly. But I may have found out why the severity of the reaction made sense initially, and given what I've learned, I think the ongoing response has a lot of room for improvement. For instance, (and I'm just pulling this example because it's in the news today, not because I have feelings any way about the country) New Zealand
cannot hide forever. What's the end-game? Close off to the world in perpetuity, or perhaps isolate those in the greatest risk categories? (Not a dig at all to New Zealanders, just a question government
officials should address- whatever the answer is).
Crazy times we're living in, but as I reflect on my experience with this bug, I feel there's a lot we can be doing differently.
I'll now wave my underwear on a stick to avoid the sh!tfight any discussion on this topic seems to evoke in this world. But I do hope to illicit some reasoned feedback and discourse