Saturday, March 28, 2020

Virus in Wonderland

March 28, 2020

By Anna Morris, Freedom Fighters of America

     Some of us in this Idaho/Oregon border region wonder if we had COVID-19 illness in mid- to late December 2019? We had a supposed viral illness during which some people completely lost the senses of taste and smell. Last week anosmia and dysgeusia, medical terms for loss of smell and taste, were announced as possible early signs of, or in some cases the only signs of COVID-19 disease. It is now  widely recommended that people with these symptoms immediately enter self quarantine for two weeks.

     I live on my small ranch in Washington County, Idaho, which is located in a fairly isolated high desert region on the east bank of the Snake River. A large family with children was sharing my house until recently. In December 2019 a couple of those kids visited relatives in northeastern Oregon. One of these relatives drives school bus so has ample opportunity to absorb any infectious diseases going through school kids.

     On returning to Idaho, a preteen boy fell ill with severe fatigue and fever of 101 F (38.33 C). After a few days he seemed to be getting better but his grandmother noticed he kept adding salt to a cup of chicken broth, a ridiculous amount of salt, like the whole shaker-full if he had not been stopped. The boy had no sense of taste which lasted a few days before it returned as he rapidly recovered. The total time of his illness was around seven days.

     Two babies in the family, two years old and younger, were feverish and fussy for a few days but had no other specific signs or symptoms.

     The boy's grandmother who had helped nurse him subsequently lost her appetite, had mild sore throat and respiratory symptoms then lost her sense of taste and smell. She describes the symptoms as, "It was pretty much coming down with pneumonia, for me." This was late December/early January and since that time this woman has had two diagnosed bouts of pneumonia treated with antibiotics and other medications. These last illnesses are  of the "walking pneumonia" class as she has remained active though severely fatigued.

     As soon as the boy became ill I moved into another house on the ranch. I have a peculiar, dangerous heart rate and viruses can be very serious for me. Nevertheless I had been in close quarters with the children who were ill. On Christmas Eve I awoke with a mild sore throat which eased with a cup of hot coffee. I was severely tired that day and kind of dragged through the holidays till the first of January. I then developed mild respiratory symptoms, so mild I was not sure I was ill. One night I woke up with the sensation that I was choking to death and coughed up a peculiar and large mass of stringy phlegm. After that I got an eight day migraine and was absolutely prostrate for a couple weeks. I experienced severe depression for the first time in my life and I told my doctor I felt like I had pneumonia. She said my lungs were "clear" and prescribed an Albuterol inhaler which helped. Even so, it is only in the last week that I have begun to feel somewhat normal. The depression began to lift a couple weeks ago, over eight weeks after the initial signs of illness.

     Last week news articles from Europe began reporting the loss of taste and smell in connection with COVID-19. 

     Around this time a friend shared a Facebook post from a nurse in the northeastern corner of Oregon, describing a rash of respiratory illnesses in December 2019 during which schools closed for disinfection. (All I can find similar to this is schools in that area closed in December due to Norovirus.) She noted there had been deaths among older people, supposedly from this unusually severe, non-flu, respiratory illness. (This posting cannot be found at this time.)

     Continuing anecdotally, one of the first  confirmed COVID-19 cases in Oregon was in Weston, Oregon, Umatilla County in the same vicinity where the boy was possibly infected. This was February 2020. Various articles noted that that man worked at the local casino on tribal lands, though not directly with the public or with food. A couple days before he showed symptoms he had attended a middle school basketball tournament in Weston, it was reported. This male patient over 60 years old was soon hospitalized in Walla Walla, Washington, over the border from Oregon.

     This is somewhat close to home for me so I have been watching the emerging cases in Oregon and Idaho counties. More than a week after the first Umatilla County case there was a second, said to have been in close contact with the first. There seem to be no other cases and no community spread in the area. (I must here caution the readers. Today the East Oregonian newspaper has an article claiming COVID-19 cases in eastern Oregon are not being reported to the public because the populations in the area are so small, those infected could be "outed". Then there was some mumbling about more "transparency" which I translate as Oregon Health Authority will tell fewer lies. All this is fodder for another article so I will let the subject LIE for now, so to speak. It looks like a third COVID case in Umatilla County is being counted today.)

     On the surface one cannot help but wonder if the COVID-19 virus has not already visited the area and if there is a level of immunity present in the population?

     There are various estimates about how the novel H1 N1 1918 influenza virus mutated. Some authors and researchers believe there was a first pass of the virus, say in 1916 or 1917, which was milder and may have not been particularly noticed. These researchers theorize a second pass of the virus, after a deadly mutation, killed 50 to 100 million people in the 1918 pandemic. Following that the virus became milder again and is still with us according to various sources. Is it possible COVID-19 has been around for awhile and has become more lethal in a second pass?

     At this time Italy, so hard hit with COVID-19 in the past month, is reportedly looking back at some cases of severe pneumonia in that region going back perhaps as far as November/December 2019. A comment made on an international forum of which I am a member, said Italy may disinter the dead from that outbreak to try to obtain viral samples. This story is unfolding at this time.

     I have been active on this forum and on Twitter. A number of people respond with their own tales of having peculiar viral illness and loss of taste and smell dating back before reports of the virus came out of Wuhan China. Some of us wonder if the virus has an origin other than China. We wonder if the original site might be in northern Italy or even the northern U.S.? Is it possible, I wonder, that this devastating killer virus could have arisen in the underpopulated, high desert, border region where I live?

     Since COVID-19 testing abilities in the U.S. appear to be woefully inadequate and unavailable, no one has any idea how many currently infected individuals exist in the country. Some sources claim there is an antibody test that can show if someone has had the disease. I for one would love to see wide spread antibody testing done in this Idaho/Oregon border area. Until then we will have to wonder.

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