I Have Coronavirus—And I Know Exactly Who Gave It to Me
This is how I got COVID-19 from someone who didn't have any symptoms—which means you can, too.
COVID-19, the official name for the novel coronavirus, has swept the globe in just a matter of months. As the numbers of illnesses and deaths grow, governments have shut down schools, restaurants, stores, hair salons, and more to combat the spread of the highly contagious disease. This is the experience of one 50-year-old U.S. man who has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Here in the United States, more than 30,000 Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus. I am one of them—and I know exactly who gave it to me. These are the lessons I hope you take away from my experience. (Editor’s note: Names have been changed to protect the subjects’ identities.)
You can catch it from someone with no symptoms
My wife, Megan, and I went out to dinner with an old friend who we had not seen in a while. There had been some talk of COVID-19 in the news, but it was early in the outbreak and people were still going about their daily routines. Even though everyone in our group felt perfectly fine, we took precautions: We washed our hands with soap and used hand sanitizer, did not share food, and had no significantly close contact.
A few days later, our friend called and told us that she had tested positive for the coronavirus. She had felt some mild symptoms for a day or so after the dinner and was able to be tested because she is a doctor. Despite our precautions that night, the virus was also passed to me and another friend who had joined us. That makes two people who caught the virus from someone with no symptoms or reason to believe she had the virus.
We are not the only ones. In a study published on MedRxiv about the COVID-19 outbreaks abroad, researchers found that 48 per cent of cases in Singapore and 62 per cent of cases in Tianjin, China, could be linked to people who were pre-symptomatic, or had not developed symptoms yet. (The study has not yet been peer-reviewed.) That’s why the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended reducing physical contact with others and limiting group gatherings, even if you do not feel sick. You can also ignore these 10 etiquette rules because of coronavirus.
You might not feel sick right away
Even though Megan and I did everything we could to prevent spreading the virus to others—including immediately quarantining ourselves and calling everyone we had been in contact with—three days had passed before we found out we had been exposed. In those three days, we saw some friends and went to the supermarket, and Megan went to work. Those three days haunt us. Luckily, no one we had been in contact with seems to have gotten sick from us so far.
Research shows that a person could unknowingly carry the virus and pass it on to someone else for an average of four to five days before showing symptoms. (Again, this study has not yet been peer-reviewed.) All the more reason to follow the CDC’s guidelines by keeping your distance and washing your hands regularly and correctly. Believe it or not, that simple hygiene practice can prevent coronavirus and a long list of other diseases.
The symptoms are similar to the flu
The day after we found out our friend had tested positive, I started to feel a little “off.” Not sick necessarily, but not 100 per cent either; I felt a little tired and my head was a bit cloudy. That day, which was four days after we had seen our friend, I stayed in the master bedroom away from the rest of my family. I woke up the next morning with a 102-degree fever. That’s when we realized that I might have caught the virus from our friend.
Worried that you might have coronavirus? While a mild case of COVID-19 might only cause a small headache, it’s more likely that you will have flu-like symptoms including a fever, chills, cough, and shortness of breath, according to the CDC. My symptoms are mostly what they call “mild,” but mild is not what you think. It feels like I have the flu, which can be very debilitating. Thankfully, I am young, healthy and in good shape, so right now I am just focused on resting and getting better.
Not everyone can get tested
The morning I woke up with a fever, Megan immediately called our state’s coronavirus hotline, who then conferenced in our primary care doctor and the head of our local hospital system’s coronavirus team. We explained that we had been in contact with someone who had tested positive, and I was having symptoms. They quickly approved me to receive a test at an urgent care centre located five minutes from my house. However, Megan could not get a test because she was not showing symptoms. (Note for Canadian readers: Use the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 self-assessment tool to determine whether you should be tested, and how to go about it.)
Quarantine and notify people if you feel sick
Megan and I immediately quarantined ourselves and our children once we heard that our friend had tested positive. Since I developed symptoms, I have been isolated in the master bedroom for six days, and the only interaction I have with Megan is when she brings in food. Megan is sleeping on a small couch in our home office, and our kids stay in their rooms. Megan minimizes her contact with our kids in case she is carrying the virus.
We also called everyone we had been in contact with to let them know that I had tested positive. It was the responsible thing to do. It is hard to tell people we might have given them a virus, but not telling anyone anything would have been cowardly and irresponsible. It wasn’t an option for us, and it shouldn’t be an option for anyone in our situation.
This virus can bring people together
While we have not been out of our house in over six days—and will be here for another eight or nine at least—we have felt such love and concern from those around us. Even people who don’t know what is going on have reached out just to check in, which in turn has inspired us to reach out to others. Our kids stream movies online with their friends, and my office has daily video calls to keep everyone connected. We’ve made an effort to spend time together as a family, too. Although Megan and the kids and I can’t be in the same room, the four of us still play online games together.
This time has caused a lot of fear and uncertainty for my family and others. But for us, there has been a silver lining: Technology can bring people together in amazing ways. These uplifting stories of neighbors helping during coronavirus will inspire you to do the same.