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Published April 28, 2020


Has virus been here longer than experts say?

By John Toth / The Bulletin

On Thanksgiving Day 2019, I was feeling miserable - fever, chills, headache, joint pains, cough, tiredness. Did I have COVID-19?

That’s what a lot of people who went through the same thing around that time and later are now asking. The answer from the experts: maybe, maybe not. But epidemiologists say probably not. Maybe it was its cousin.

I slept the entire day. Advil helped a little. I kept my sinuses moistened to be able to breathe without pain. My chest felt like a ton of bricks were placed on it.

My daughter complained a few days earlier when she was at my house that she didn’t feel good. She had the same symptoms, but was getting over them. It was my turn. A few days later it was my wife, Sharon’s, turn.

She has had upper respiratory problems ever since I have known her. Her breathing rate dropped into the 80s, which meant that it was time to see the doctor. I went with her into the examination room.

“I have seen a lot of these,” the doctor said after I asked him what her ailment was.

“I had it last week,” I said. “I’m still coughing some.” I continued to cough for the next two weeks.

Sharon was given a breathing treatment, which helped bring her rate back up to the lower 90s. That was good enough.

The doctor said it was not the flu. We both had the flu shot a month or so earlier. He didn’t have a name for it. At that time, no one did. He just treated the symptoms, which meant getting Sharon’s airwaves open so she could breathe normally.

A few days after starting on the medicine, Sharon felt better, and her breathing returned to the upper 90s.

Then my brother-in-law came to visit. Two days after he flew in, he got sick. Same symptoms as us. He didn’t seek medical treatment, but stayed in bed and took some over-the-counter medicine. He recovered with no problems.

After COVID-19 shut everything down and I became aware of the virus’ symptoms, I began to wonder. If what I had - we had - was not this virus, then what was it?

I asked my friends on Facebook if they went through something like this around the same time frame.

“My husband was diagnosed with pneumonia at the very end of October. Four days after diagnosis, he was on a ventilator for four days in the ICU. I don’t know, but seems likely, as he tested negative for the flu,” replied one friend.

“We had the symptoms. The cough was like I’ve never had or heard of. I coughed one right after another until I emptied my lungs and then could not, for the life of me, take a breath. The first time it happened it almost scared me to death,” replied another.

“My dad (88 years old) had this same thing on Christmas week. Had the flu shot in plenty of time. His doctor gave him Z-Pack and a shot. Told him what he had was very contagious. Said if he’d been a smoker, he wouldn’t have made it. Lasted 3 weeks with a terrible pain in chest and headache.”

The replies kept on coming. Another friend posted the same question because she got sick around that time and received many more similar replies.

Of course, all this is anecdotal, but there may be enough here to suspect that this virus has been hanging around us longer than the experts are saying.

Which means what? It is another piece in the COVID-19 puzzle. It may mean that those who went through it late last year and early this year before the world received its official alert, are now immune to it. Once the antibody tests are available and reliable, we’ll know for sure.

But we’re still not taking any chances. Even when everything opens back up again, we will continue to be more health- and cleanliness-oriented.

Because from now on, we’ll never know when the next invisible enemy will come along.

Let’s not shake hands on this. Here. Elbow bump.

(John looks forward to hearing from you on this subject. Send me a note at john.bulletin@gmail.com. You can even send an old-fashioned letter to: The Bulletin, P.O. Box 2426, Angleton, TX. 77516.)