Yet another COVID-19 question

What are the chances that the current virus was in the US long before the current reports? The last few months have been a very bad time for illness in my circle. It was assumed to be the flu. I had the flu and so did my daughter, verified by test.

Quite a few people I know had flu symptoms, some very severe, but had negative test results for influenza. Is there any chance that any of them had the virus dejour?

Bonus question: is it possible to tell if you had COVID-19 after you recover?

Probably none, since it seemed to only be in China before it spread to other countries. What makes you suspect COVID when the flu is far, far more likely?

It started late last year. Between that and even China probably not realizing it wasn’t the flu for a while, let’s say it’s been around for at least 6 months. That’s probably fair.
In that 6 months, I’m sure many people traveling to the US brought it with them. But unless any of your family members happen to have been in close contact with someone from China, or even in close contact with someone that was in close contact with someone from an area that had an outbreak it’s very likely unrelated.
Also, since late fall into early winter is pretty much the height of flu season, I think it’s safe to assume the vast majority of people with flu symptoms (actual flu, not ‘stomach flu’) had the flu.

It’s believed to have started in Wuhan, China. Could someone have contracted COVID-19 in China and returned to the US before the epidemic really took off in Asia? Sure, that’s certainly possible, but if it was true you would expect a similar outbreak in the US around the same time as it was happening in China, and I don’t think that was the case. Someone can provide me wrong.

If you want to stipulate that it was only in China, I live in an area with a large Chinese population. Why I suspect it might not be the flu is because they had tests for the flu but the test were negative despite their symptoms.

But who was testing those that were sick but tested negative for the flu?

Again, if it was in a populated area in the US (I don’t know where you live) and was undetected for months it would have spread quickly just like it did in Wuhan, Seoul, Tokyo, and Milan. Why would it behave differently in the US than everywhere else?

I think a good question is whether it makes sense to do national testing in the US, assuming we have 327 million test kits, to see how widespread it is today? I doubt that’s practical even if we wanted to do it.

Is there some reason not to trust the WHO?
What would anybody have to gain by identifying a new corona strain, introducing all kinds of draconian quarantine measures when the proverbial cat is already out of the bag?

This kind of thinking is usually associated with “Truthers”, “Flat-Earthers”, “young earth creationists” and other nut jobs.

It’s not that WHO or even the US Government might be “hiding the truth”. How would it benefit the president to lie about something we all know about? It’s whether there could be undetected pockets of the outbreak that aren’t recognized as COVID-19. Unless those pockets were able to ride out the infection and it didn’t spread out from there, there may be no way to know for sure whether there was a pre-outbreak before we knew what we were dealing with. I really doubt it though.

I don’t know if the COVID-19 test checks for specific antibodies, but if it does I presume it could detect if someone just got over an infection since the antibodies would still be in the bloodstream, albeit at a lower level than if it was an active infection.

It’s not a matter of not trusting anyone. I’m asking about the possibility of the disease being around before anyone knew to look for it. There is no indication that they will ever know who Patient Zero was. Unless there is some residual left in the bloodstream to give a positive result will they ever know who had it before it was identified? There was a tipping point when they knew to look deeper. How long after the first case was that point? How many patients were just treated as if they had the flu before they knew it was more?

I’m not sure what category of denier just throws out the fact that people in the US within the last few months before the disease was known had flu-like symptoms with a negative test for influenza.

I know we were warned that it seemed to be a bad flu season this year. The number of people out sick was evidence of that. My visits to the hospital showed that too. I know half a dozen people directly and more peripherally who tested negative. They had something with bad flu symptoms but could not get a definitive diagnosis.

I never once wrote, implied or thought that anyone was hiding anything. Obviously no one was testing for the virus until recently. I was asking of the possibility of people having it earlier in the US and not knowing because no one knew it was a thing.

You mentioned that you were tested positive for the Flu. That raises a question. What would a standard Flu test show for someone who had COVID-19? Would a regular Flu test come back positive for a generic coronavirus infection? Or are the tests specific enough that you would have come up negative, or rather, “inconclusive” or something like that? Would it show up on the Flu test as SARS? Or would they have to run a SARS-specific test to get that result? If I recall, the first patients in China were thought to have SARS. Does a generic Flu test look for this? Or did they have to test for SARS after a Flu test came back negative?

Given its reasonably active spread once it enters a community, if what your circle of friends in Pork Roll / Taylor Ham was COVID-19 then it should have spread out from there and been the centre of a well-advanced outbreak. What they had was self-limiting and seemingly not very infectious. All you can say is that it was [1] not influenza, based on the test and [2] not COVID-19 based on its apparent behaviour.

On your Bonus question: ‘is it possible to tell if you had COVID-19 after you recover?’ Normally once a crisis has passed there is systematic testing for antibodies to measure what proportion of people contracted the disease but remained aymptomatic, so that a more precise measure of morbidity and mortality can be made. All stats at the moment are just based on people showing, then recognising, then acting and reporting symptoms.

Why would it? Its a cold virus not flu…correct?

“Current”? It is obvious that COVID-19 is endemic in the USA, and had been for several weeks before real testing started. If there are 1000 cases today, there were hundreds of unknown cases last week. If, as has been suggested, there are 100,000 cases in Ohio today, there were thousands of unknown cases last month, and some of the “cold” and “flu” cases were actually COVID-19.

  1. The test kit now in use will stop detecting infection after a couple of days. More careful tests of the same kind will continue to detect past infection for a couple of weeks. The test for immunity (which will last months if not lifetime) is not yet available.

That seems unlikely in the extreme.

The CDC has determined that the virus in the US is genetically very similar to the virus that went around a market in Wuhan, and that the most likely explanation is that there was a single animal reservoir of this virus.

I’m no science talking guy, but the idea that the same virus would have existed in New Jersey, was passed around in your neighborhood but not really anywhere else, then somehow made it 8,000 miles away to a group of Chinese bats, then had the illness spread from there, seems… questionable.

IMHO, huge. And said cases were classed as non-specific pneumonia or other respiratory illnesses. Anecdotal, but I’ve had too many acquaintances come down with nasty respiratory, flu-like ‘crud’ in December onwards this year, yet test negative for bacteriological infection, or Flu A or B. Shrug.

IIRC, Singapore is working on a, or already has, an antibody test for Covid-19—which will show you were infected by the virus, versus the current antigen test, which shows you have a level of the virus in your system now. It would be useful to know how many people have been infected, as this will help us discern the fatality rate of this disease.

While anything is possible, it is unlikely you and your friends had COVID-19.

Rapid influenza tests, which are probably what was used, are fairly unreliable.
The diagnostic accuracy of influenza swabs is often overestimated by clinicians. The CDC notes that rapid influenza testing has a sensitivity ranging from approximately 50% to 70% — meaning that in up to half of influenza cases, the flu swab results will still be negative.

I see several brand new serum tests that supposedly can test for COVID-19 antibodies. Whether these are actually in use I don’t know.


And thank you to all the other helpful answers.

The Chinese government is now pushing a suggestion that the virus originated in the US.