(oh, right…bird flu)
(oh, right…bird flu)
With more symptoms being added to the list for Covid-19, I’m beginning to think I should have gone in for a flu test when I had the flu at the beginning of March. At the time, chills, muscle aches and headache (and lack of coughing) seemed like a clear “not Covid” indicator. I was staying home anyway — I didn’t want to give anyone the flu, either. And I figured as long as it was treatable with home care, I wouldn’t waste time and doctors’ resources on a flu test to tell me what I already knew. Or thought I did.
Not that I would have been able to get a Covid-19 test, even if the flu test turned out negative. This was about a week before California started locking things down. Tests were still in short supply. I hadn’t traveled to China or Italy, or been in close contact (as far as I knew, anyway) with anyone who had. I wasn’t coughing or short of breath. All I had was the fever and a bunch of other flu-like symptoms that weren’t recognized as Covid-related.
That said, one key piece of evidence still points to the flu: I managed not to give it to anyone else in my family.
We kept our distance, washed our hands a lot, and made sure I didn’t cough or sneeze at anyone or on anything. But we continued to share space in the apartment.
See, in a small apartment you can’t do the level of isolation that a lot of articles have suggested. I wasn’t locked in a red zone alone. Food wasn’t delivered furtively, with a mask and gloves that were immediately dropped as soon as the door closed. We didn’t disinfect everything as it left the room.
If it had been Covid-19, everyone else would have gotten it too. Especially since I would have already been contagious for at least a week before symptoms hit.
But it would be nice to know for sure.
Last weekend, after spending Saturday running errands and Sunday taking care of stuff around the house, I went out to de-stress with a photo-walk at the coast, taking pictures of shorebirds, waves, sailboats, sand patterns and a zillon tiny shells. On the way back I started feeling aches and chills, and by evening I had a 101-degree fever and felt kind of like Firestorm.
Everything has pointed to the flu, and it’s been manageable with home care, so I’ve been staying home all week, alternating sick days and remote work depending on how much I can handle each day.
Meanwhile, Covid-19 has continued to spread across the world. Literally the next day, Los Angeles County announced the first confirmed case of community spread. Events are being canceled left and right, schools and museums and even Disneyland are closing, whole countries have implemented quarantines, and it’s become blindingly obvious that it’s no longer possible to contain, we can only hope to flatten the curve and keep the pandemic from overwhelming the health system by hitting too many at the same time.
It’s been a really weird week to stay home sick with something else.
On one hand it’s been kind of a trial run, which is useful. Practicing the extra hand washing, distancing, trying not to get anyone else in the house sick, all that. But on the other hand there’s the understanding that I’m probably going to have to go through it again when one of us gets actual covid-19. There’s a part of me that wants to get it over with, like being sentenced to time served.
I’m not especially worried about us, since we’re reasonably young and healthy to start with, so we’re likely to recover if and when we get it. Probably without hospitalization. But I certainly don’t want to spread it to someone at greater risk, so I’m totally on board with remote working (post-flu) and avoiding crowds.
Still, I hope that there’s a gap between when I’m no longer wiped-out/contagious from the flu and any potential lockdowns in this area (general or just our house). I’d like to be able to do supply runs, though we’ve been building up a bit of a cushion on each grocery trip. I’d like to be able to pick up takeout from local restaurants while they’re open. I may need to pick up a new thermometer since the button on this one has gotten temperamental with all the times I’ve used it this week.
But mostly I want to be able to spend at least some time outside. I get cabin fever. Tuesday I was already pacing the living room between bouts of fatigue. Wednesday I was excited to walk to the mailbox. And that’s only after a few days. I don’t need to be around lots of people. I like outdoor solitude. Hiking nature preserves. Photo walks like the one I did right before the flu hit me. Even just walking circuits around the neighborhood. If I can keep doing that, this will be a lot easier to manage.
The Washington Post points out that 82% of covid-19 cases identified so far are mild, basically a bad cold. Virologists are trying to determine: How many more mild cases haven’t been counted? And what factors cause some cases to be mild and others lethal?
There are several coronaviruses that already circulate globally and just cause colds. And there are several that cause more dangerous diseases like SARS and MERS. Covid-19 is new enough that we’re still trying to figure out where it is on the scale between a cold and SARS.
The Los Angeles Times brought up the H1N1 flu, which at first appeared much more deadly than other strains because it was the severe cases that were being counted. Once researchers could go back and find the mild cases, it turned out to be about the same as the typical seasonal flu. A decade since jumping to humans, H1N1 has essentially become just another seasonal flu.
Covid-19 is somewhere in between a cold and SARS, but as mentioned above, we’re still trying to figure out where.
In any case, it’s worth remembering: mild or severe, coronaviruses spread the same way as colds and the flu. Update 2023: Well, we thought it did at the time. Now we know it’s mostly shared, close airspaces. But washing your hands is still a good idea.
Wash your hands. (As Science-Based Medicine points out, a recent study suggests that hand-washing in airports is “probably the single most effective method for preventing pandemics.”)
Cough and sneeze into your elbow instead of your palm.
And if you get sick, stay home if you can.
There’s something wrong with this advertisement for flu vaccination services:
The slogan just bugs me, because they got the metaphor wrong.
Think about it: Vaccines work by training your body’s immune system to recognize a particular type of germ ahead of time, so that if you get exposed to the real thing later on, you can fight it off before it actually manages to make you sick. In terms of a warfare metaphor, it’s about training the troops who guard the home front so that if the enemy successfully invades past your borders, you can fight them off before they become entrenched.
The first line of defense would be something that stops them from invading in the first place. A well-defended border, in terms of ground troops. The Coast Guard in terms of sea. Radar and anti-aircraft missiles to identity and shoot down incoming enemy aircraft.
Your first line of defense against the flu? That would be your skin.
So wash your hands!