After more than two years of precautions and developing techniques to avoid COVID-19 infection, an Easter weekend trip to Washington, DC to see my daughter seemed like a pretty safe proposition. The travel mask mandate was still in effect, and I wore an N95 mask the entire time I was traveling and in hotels and restaurants. In fact, the only time I was unmasked was in my hotel room or my daughter’s apartment.
Unfortunately, my daughter called to tell me that her springtime allergies had become accompanied by a fever, and she had tested positive for COVID-19. I immediately tested myself and was negative, but isolated and tested every 12 hours for three days despite not having symptoms. By the evening of the third day, I felt somewhat confident that I had ducked the infection. However, I woke up the 4th day with a runny nose and generalized body aches. My rapid antigen test, which had been totally negative the night before, was now markedly positive. I had developed a SARS Co V2 infection — COVID-19.
My symptoms progressed during the day, and I felt like I had a combination of a significant head cold with the constituent aches of the flu. I never developed a fever, but given the fact that I’m approaching 69 years of age and have some cardiovascular concerns I called my physician and within two hours was able to start on Paxlovid, the Pfizer antiviral drug.
While the first dose of Paxlovid didn’t seem to have much of an effect, about an hour and a half after the second dose 12 hours later, my symptoms improved markedly. The following day, my second full day on Paxlovid, I had only nasal symptoms and felt well enough to do yard work. Despite this, my antigen test remained positive that night indicating I still was shedding virus.
I now feel well, and my symptoms have totally resolved, but I plan to continue to isolate for a full five days and make sure my antigen test is negative before reentering society. I also plan on wearing my N95 mask in group situations for an additional five days as suggested by the CDC.
The experience has given me a couple of insights, other than I don’t need a second booster right now! Some of these may be useful for others, so I relay them to my readers now.
1) COVID-19 is clearly still out there and infecting people. While rates of COVID-19 infection are higher in the District of Columbia than they are overall in Michigan, Washtenaw County has higher rates than the rest of the state and they’re approaching those in DC. Therefore, I think getting infected can happen anywhere.
2) The new variants (I presume I was infected with BA.2 since it is 85% of infections in DC, with Omicron making up the other 15%) are more likely to cause asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic disease so that it may be difficult for young people to realize they are infected. That makes it likely that asymptomatic individuals in large group gatherings will spread infection.
3) The incubation period for this infection can be at least 72 hours long. I’m not sure why my symptoms were so delayed, but potentially it may be because I’m vaccinated and boosted. Regardless, after a significant exposure history, a person needs to isolate for several days to make sure they aren’t infected.
4) Paxlovid is a very good drug and works quickly to reduce symptoms. There were very few side effects except for a metallic taste, which is an issue I have with a few medications and appears to be a genetically defined trait. You do have to stop some other medications, like statins (cholesterol drugs), so make sure the pharmacist knows what other medications you are taking.
5) Paxlovid is no longer in short supply! I was able to obtain it from the local Meijer pharmacy without problem. If you are infected and have any type of risk, including simply being over 55 years of age, I strongly encourage you to contact your physician and get the drug.
6) Finally, just because you feel better doesn’t mean you’re no longer contagious. I felt well and was able to do normal activities despite still having a positive antigen test.
Bottom line, if you get COVID-19 take care of yourself with Paxlovid and take care of others by isolating according to the CDC guidelines.