It was the call I’ve been dreading.
My 22-year-old granddaughter was on the phone. She had a fever, cough, fatigue, nausea, headache, changes in her sense of taste – in short, pretty much all the symptoms of COVID-19. As she had been exposed to a coworker who tested positive, it wasn’t that hard to make a diagnosis. Her COVID test, however, came back negative. I’ve seen this repeatedly. The patient has all the symptoms but the test is negative. I’ve also seen a number of cases where the health care professionals involved go with the test results rather than the evidence of the patient in front of them. One of those cases was a woman who had every single symptom, as well as a chest X-ray that showed the typical “ground glass” opacities. The odds that this woman did not have COVID were vanishingly small, yet the ER doctor sent her home with a blithe, “the test is negative, you’ll be fine.” I consider that nothing short of criminal.
Tests are not perfect. That’s especially true with coronavirus. The timing of specimen collection seems to have a major effect on the results, as does the user technique. There have also been concerns about the quality of the reagents – the delays in testing during the early stages of the pandemic were partly because one of the reagents in the CDC’s test kits was contaminated. In addition, all coronavirus tests currently on the market were rushed through under emergency FDA approval. Estimates of false negative rates for the PCR diagnostic test run 30-40% (I suspect it’s higher, based on my experience). False positives are much less likely – if the test is positive, it’s a pretty good bet you have COVID. For the antibody test, the false negative rate may be as high as 50%.
This is definitely one of those situations where the patient’s symptoms should trump test results. There are others – you can have low thyroid function with “normal” test results. In that case, doctors treat based on symptoms. My granddaughter has been on elderberry syrup for months as a preventive strategy. Yesterday, I started her on Quercetin, vitamin D and extra vitamin C, and sent down an extra bottle of elderberry syrup with instructions to take one tablespoon every four hours. I also started her on the homeopathic remedy oscillococcinum, which Wikipedia will tell you is a “fraudulent” remedy for flu and viral infections. Maybe. Or maybe Big Pharma and other self-interested parties are involved. I find it interesting that during the 1918 pandemic, patients treated with homeopathic remedies were more likely to survive than those treated with conventional remedies.
I also told her to spend at least four hours a day lying on her stomach to allow her lungs to inflate more fully, to drink at least two quarts of water a day, get some light exercise daily, and avoid all sugar and refined carbohydrates. All of these tactics are designed to boost the immune system and support her body so she can fight off the infection.
Now we wait.