To many people around the world, the causes, effects and manifestations of COVID-19 confuse and confound. A disease, which to one person can leave them mildly tired and groggy; leaves another bedridden, unable to breathe and ultimately, dead. There are further questions around where exactly COVID-19 originated. From what species did it pass from animal to human? When did this happen, and how? Furthermore, most of the world’s population has been thrown into an era of uncertainty about their economic stability, affecting people of all classes. Essentially, COVID-19 has in large part been, and remains, something of a mystery.
At 9.37 am, on Tuesday the 12th of May, I received a text message from the NHS England COVID-19 Test Centre confirming that I had the virus. This result followed a test that was taken on Friday the 8th of May, alongside my girlfriend and her mother, both of whom I live with. My girlfriend’s mother’s result came back as positive too, whereas Bethany, my girlfriend, received a negative result. The COVID anomaly that I will be detailing here is my girlfriend’s mysterious failure to contract the virus, despite being isolated with two others who had been confirmed to have the virus. It is not as if she was confined to a single room, away from us throughout this period either, she was interacting with us both as would anyone when someone they live with is unwell.
By the time I received my result, I was almost certain that I did indeed have the virus. I felt terrible, I couldn’t think clearly and could barely move from my bed. Whenever I did, I was so fatigued that I can only describe it by saying that it felt as if there were weights tied to my arms, legs and head. Luckily, and with the benefit of hindsight, it seems as though the strain of the virus that I contracted was mild; my breathing was more or less fine, I wasn’t coughing with any consistent frequency and I didn’t have a particularly high fever. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t want to deal with it again.
It appears as though the virus got to me through second-hand exposure to the virus through my girlfriend and her mother’s frontline worker duties at a care home in Cambridgeshire. Much has been made of how care homes were left to fend for themselves by the UK Government, and I won’t be going into that here, but suffice it to say that they were offered little opportunity to shield themselves from the potentially deadly virus, whilst trying to help those who cannot help themselves. It goes without saying that no blame can be attached to any frontline workers for inadvertently passing the virus onto family members and people they live with if they are given, what is in my own opinion, inadequate protective gear.
As a result of being unable to move around the house without feeling as though I had just run the London Marathon, my girlfriend would bring me water and food throughout the day. All the while, coming into contact with plates, bottles and surfaces that I had been contaminating with the virus. If she did not have the virus by May the 12th, she would surely have it soon.
By Thursday the 14th of May, Bethany began to feel unwell. She spent the day in bed, with similar symptoms to what I was experiencing. So too, on the 15th, she spent the majority of the day in bed feeling unwell. By this time, I was beginning to feel marginally better, so the roles reversed, with me now fetching food and water, while she stayed in bed to recover.
However, after those two days in bed, Bethany felt normal again, resuming life as normal, while maintaining the 14-day isolation period we were required to complete. Then, that following Saturday (16th), Bethany went for another test alone. Stunningly, this test also came back negative. This surely means that she never had the virus. With one test being taken on the 8th of May, and another on the 16th of May, there is no room for the virus to be contracted, to display symptoms and to disappear without being picked up by one of the two tests.
Now, the only logical solution is that she did indeed have the virus throughout this period, but received not one, but two false negatives. A study conducted by Lauren M. Kucirka, Stephen A. Lauer, Oliver Laeyendecker and Denali Boon found that on Day 5 of the virus, which is when symptoms typically begin to show, there is a 38% false-negative rate. However, by Day 9, that rate drops to a not-insignificant 21%. There is a real possibility of both of those tests returning a false negative.
Although, having seen first-hand the effects that Bethany felt from (potentially) having had the virus, they did not align with mine. Yes, her symptoms appeared on a surface level to be the same as mine, but they did not even come close to fitting the same time frame. Whereas I began to feel symptoms on the day I got the test (Friday the 8th of May), only to have more or less overcome the virus by the following Saturday (the 16th of May), she only had symptoms on the Thursday and Friday (15th and 16th).
There is little information online of people suffering from symptoms of the virus for such a short amount of time. Following her recovery, Bethany did say that she didn’t think it was COVID-19, but rather general fatigue or perhaps a cold. Either way, assuming that both of the tests were not incorrect, she did not have COVID-19.
The reason I felt compelled to write this is that, as I said, there is little documentation of people suffering from the virus for such a short period. Perhaps somebody will read this and think that they have suffered with it, only experiencing symptoms for a short period compared to others. Perhaps, it was never COVID-19 though. This is something that has become something of a mystery to me, a true anomaly in what seems to be a widely accepted truth; that COVID-19 in incredibly contagious. How can someone who works in an environment which is riddled with COVID-19 patients, and then isolate with two others suffering from COVID-19, not contract the virus, all while having face-to-face conversations, interacting with objected touched by COVID-19-positive people? It is genuinely an anomaly.