As a science journalist, I have read dozens of research papers COVID-19, And I have interviewed many virologists, infectious disease doctors and immunologists over the past two years that I have lost count. But about two weeks ago, when my 7-year-old daughter tested positive for COVID-19, I was not prepared for anything.
It started the way you might expect: Sunday evening, my daughter had a fever. The next morning, we received an email informing us that he had been contacted Coronavirus Friday at school. I gave him a quick antigen test, which quickly turned positive. Seeing that the whole family would eventually be infected with Covid-19, I resigned.
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But we didn’t – not exactly. I, for one, never evolved Symptoms or tests are positive. The day my daughter tested positive for the first time, my 11-year-old son announced that he was not feeling well and began to develop classic coronavirus symptoms: headache, fatigue, sore throat, runny nose. My husband followed me two days later with a sore throat and a stuffy nose. Yet even after seven consecutive days of daily testing, my husband and son never tested positive for Covid-19 – including PCR tests administered on the fifth day of my son’s symptoms, and my husband’s third. (And yes, we also did some throat swabs.)
We racked our brains at what might have happened: did my husband and son get cowardly, even though they never tested positive? Or did they have another virus that caused similar symptoms and infected them after they came in contact with COVID-19? (Our pediatrician says it was impossible.) Why am I not sick? I called the immunologists, Microbiology And virology to get their take.
Vaccines change how your body responds to viruses.
One of the first questions the experts asked me was whether my family was there Vaccinated. Yes, I said: My husband and I have been vaccinated, and our children have been vaccinated but not raised. This is a pertinent question because, if you are exposed to a virus that causes COVID-19, “your immune system works much faster if you are not vaccinated,” said Gigi Gronval, an immunologist at Jones. Hopkins Center for Health Safety in Baltimore. And that quick reaction changes everything about what happens now.
First, a rapid immune response slows down the rate Viral reproduction And spread. “There are vaccines for this – to educate your immune system so that attackers can jump on them before they are able to mimic out of control,” Gronval said. Because vaccinated people do not repeat the virus as quickly as possible, they may be less likely to be tested positive for covid-19 after being infected with the corona virus, as their immune system “keeps the viral load below detection levels,” said Juliet Morrison. University of California, Riverside microbiologist.
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It is possible, then, that my husband and son caught COVID-19, but their vaccine Immune systems The infection was so well prevented that there was never enough viral protein in their nose or throat to test positive. And their negative tests probably meant they were never contagious, Morrison said.
However, my husband and son followed the guidelines of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which says that if you are being vaccinated, come in contact with COVID-19 and have symptoms but test negative, you should continue to wear masks around others. For 10 days. In fact, everyone in the house who showed symptoms was out in public for seven days. I did some work but I was wearing an N95 or KF94 mask, if I was incubating Infection.
To reduce the spread among family members, we opened the windows, ate out and put masks around each other when we remember – but I will be honest and admit that our precautions rested after several days, especially once my husband and son showed symptoms. Beyond .
Even with the virus under control, you can still feel sick.
If my husband and son never tested positive, why did they get sick? Although people who are vaccinated do not have many viruses in their body, they can have strong COVID symptoms, experts told me. That’s because a lot Symptoms of the disease – Fever, malaise, runny nose, fatigue – are actually caused by the immune system’s response to the virus, rather than the virus itself, Gronval said.
And why I felt so good, Morrison said, was that maybe my immune system was fighting the incoming virus so fast that I didn’t even get a chance to feel sick.
Morrison told me, “I think you’re definitely exposed. But, she said, maybe I had a high level of vaccine. Antibodies Or T cells called immune cells that were able to kill the invading virus before they had a chance to wake up parts of my immune system that cause symptoms.
All this said, no one knows what happened to me, my son or my husband.
Understanding how covid-19 affects the body, “there are a lot of open questions,” said Raul Andino, a virologist at the University of California, San Francisco, and that people can have different experiences for a variety of reasons. For example, Andino said, it is possible that the virus was transmitted to parts of my husband’s or my son’s body where tests did not arrive. Research suggests that the coronavirus may mimic the pancreas, heart, brain, kidneys and other organs, although the vaccine may reduce the risk of the virus spreading. Respiratory system.
My family is not the only one who has had the unique experience of developing coronavirus symptoms but has been repeatedly tested negative. Andino said he and his colleagues have been conducting studies in which they follow up and repeatedly test the whole family when one person at home tests positive for COVID-19.
“What we’re seeing is what you’ve described – that some people in the household don’t test positive,” he said, despite having symptoms. When I asked my Instagram followers if they had the same experience as my family, I got dozens of “yes” answers and stories that sounded like ours.
Most people with COVID-19 exposure and symptoms will eventually test positive.
The experts I spoke to also made a really important point: there is a difference between never testing positive and still not testing positive. My husband and son continued to test themselves for a week after developing the symptoms, so my sources said they were unlikely to test positive. But most people only test for a day or two and, DisappointinglyYou cannot draw clear conclusions from some negative test.
As I said before, when people are vaccinated against COVID-19, their immune system is primed to fight off, and they often have symptoms already. Not vaccinated People do – a few days before they can test positive. So when people test only a few days after symptoms appear, their negative results do not mean they do not have Covid-19. Even so, owning one is still beyond the reach of the average person.
“They can relax Mitigation Measures when they are still spreading a little bit of the virus, ”Gronval said.
Giving these findings, Gronval said that, ideally, people receiving two or three doses of the vaccine should be tested when symptoms appear, but the test should be continued for four or five days, as negative return tests before then may give false assurances. . To do this, however, you need to have access to several tests. Thankfully, you can now get the third phase of free COVID-19 trials through the US government, and there may be free trial sites near you.
For our family, all is well now. What is the secret Broadcast I continue to eat at our house, but it is to my great relief that we have had such a mild experience – and for that, we have our COVID-19 vaccines to thank.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
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