After 3 years, COVID-19 finally caught up to me
How columnist Ed Tobias responded after testing positive for the virus
It was bound to happen.
Even though it’s been more than three years since COVID-19 reared it head in Wuhan, China, and even though I’ve had five of the COVID-19 vaccine shots recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — two primary series doses and three boosters — plus the seasonal flu shot, COVID-19 finally found me.
On a recent Thursday night, my throat began to feel scratchy. The next night it bothered me enough to force me out of bed in the middle of the night to gargle with warm saltwater. That helped, but during the day Saturday, my nose wouldn’t stop running, I was sneezing a bit, I had a semi-productive cough, and I had a temperature of 99.2 F — slight, but my normal is usually around 97.8 F. It was enough to push me to pull a COVID-19 test out of the bathroom closet, where it had been waiting for this day to arrive.
The pink stripe next to “Sample” appeared almost immediately. No need to wait the full 15-minute period to know I’d become one of the millions infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
I popped an Advil to control the fever and called my primary care physician (PCP) here in Florida. I listed my symptoms for the on-call doctor, told him I had a positive COVID-19 test, and asked about a prescription for Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir with ritonavir). That’s the antiviral medication that can significantly reduce the risk of severe illness and hospitalization, if taken early enough after COVID-19 symptoms appear. The medication is recommended for people ages 50 and older, like me, and those who have suppressed immune systems.
Surprisingly, the doctor told me to take a second COVID-19 test the next day and to call him with the results.
On Sunday morning, the pink “positive” line on my second COVID-19 test was just as bright as the first had been, but a message left on the doctor’s answering service went unreturned. My symptoms continued and my fatigue worsened. I got in bed around 2 p.m. on Sunday and stayed there. By 6 a.m. on Monday, I’d developed a seriously sore throat.
Time for a second opinion
Later that morning, surprisingly, I felt a lot better. The sore throat was nearly gone. My runny nose had slowed to a trickle. The sneezing was gone, and my cough had pretty much ended. My energy had returned to levels that are normal for me given my multiple sclerosis (MS) fatigue. Even so, I called my PCP in Washington, D.C.
My D.C. doc was very surprised that the Florida PCP hadn’t prescribed Paxlovid right away, when my symptoms were in high gear. She told me she would’ve prescribed it. On the other hand, she confirmed that the latest omicron strain of the virus, though contagious, is much less severe than the earlier strains. Her experience has been that once an infected person starts to feel better, that trajectory continues. That was probably going to be the case with me, she predicted. She said my most recent booster last October was particularly good at keeping omicron at bay.
On the other hand, many of my doctor’s patients who were treated with Paxlovid experienced a COVID-19 rebound a week or two after their symptoms ended. She told me that taking the Paxlovid, rather than allowing my natural antibodies to work, would increase the risk of such a rebound. When I told her that antibody tests had showed that my vaccinations had produced a robust antibody response, it sealed the deal. We decided that I would self-quarantine for five days and let my COVID-19 run its course, but she would also proactively send a Paxlovid prescription to my pharmacy.
The next day I was feeling much better. The day after that I was feeling back to my normal MS self. Five days from feeling crummy to feeling good: I’ve had colds a lot worse.
Careless but prepared
I guess I let my guard drop. It seems everyone here in Florida has. People wearing masks are few and far between, even in crowded areas. I haven’t worn one since leaving Maryland in mid-October. Also, in all honesty, my hand-washing hasn’t been as great as it once was. I’ve been careless about COVID-19.
I feel fortunate that I had five COVID-19 shots. I suspect that’s why my illness was so mild and ended without me needing to be treated. But I filled the Paxlovid prescription so that it’s here, in the bathroom closet, just in case. Fingers crossed that it’ll sit on the shelf and gather a lot of dust.
You’re invited to share your COVID-19 experience below and also to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.
Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.
It will find us all no matter how careful we are.
Our second bout of Covid has just done it rounds in our house. Interesting my partner was bed bound for 3 days and, my son had cold like symptoms...whereas I had virtually no symptoms. I wonder if my 4 shots to their 2 had an impact on the course of the virus. Or was I just very lucky?
I think you're right that it will find us all but I firmly believe that my case was as mild as it was because I had very good antibody response to the vaccine...and I'm really glad I had all five shots. I think your 4 did the same for you, in contrast for the 2 for your partner and son.
Hi Ed, sorry to hear you had covid. It finally caught up with me in early December, I had different symptoms to you though. I had the worst headache ever, my eyes were sensitive to light, I had a bit of a cough and a tight feeling in my chest. I was prescribed Paxlovid, I had not heard about the rebound effect. The tablets were not pleasant to take - they upset my stomach, made me feel sick, plus they left a metallic taste in my mouth. I'm not sure if I would take them again. I tested positive for 15 days - beyond a joke! I am still having frequent headaches and after ruling out a stroke/tumour/blood-clot with an MRI scan, my doctor suspects I have post-viral syndrome (long covid). I am not sure what to think about Paxlovid now. Stay well!
I'm sorry you had that experience with Paxlovid, but it seems to be common...and it's probably a lot better than risking a severe COVID-19 case. Had I not known that I had a robust antibody response to my vaccines, and had my symptoms appeared to be worse, I would have used it. As for testing positive, my PCP says some people test positive for a month but are not contagious once they get to ten days after their symptoms end. It's such a crazy illness that it's difficult to determine how best to treat it, but I'm very glad that I had all five shots before it tracked me down.
Sorry to hear you've had Covid but glad it was short-lived and mild. I too have had the same vaccines as you. Knock on wood I've not been ill.. My neuro said to me last Sept., everyone will get Covid at some point so go out and live your life. It is MS that keeps my activities down, not fear of Covid.
I'm glad you've avoided COVID so far and I agree with your neuro that everyone will get it at some point. I firmly believe that my case was as mild as it was because I've had all five of the available shots, the most recent booster in particular.
Fellow ms sufferer in U.K. caught Covid just before Christmas! I take Ampyra which I find really helps me but even after my evening dose I still had problems with my balance and next morning my other half had to pull me up out of bed even though I wanted to get up! Scary! Same next morning. The worst sore throat I have ever experienced so much so that it stopped me sleeping. Getting in the shower was not going to happen. Caught it off my other half 3 days after him. Knocked my energy for six, balance etc which 1.5 months later is still not great and foot drop plus not flexing right leg worse. But no where near as bad as some, frustrating as doing well before. But our fault as didn’t get our boosters so stupid! Worried as 2 friends had bad experiences. I generally take my health issues into my own hands but didn’t this time and failed to sort boosters. So booster in 2 months now! What to do. Even other half took a month to get back to normal. Sneaks up on you and people certainly getting lax. So Christmas & New year a right off! Making up for it now and only ourselves to blame ???? stay well Ed
Sorry for the delayed response and that you had such a tough go of it. There's no doubt that people are getting lax but you might have a chat with your healthcare provider about whether it would be beneficial to get boostered now. Who knows what next COVID strain might be lurking around the corner.
Thank you for the article concerning your recent experience with Covid. It could be the story of so many of us and I realize now just how low my guard has dropped. I haven’t gotten Covid but I’m the only one of my friends. Your article made me really stop and think.
I'm glad what I wrote made you think. That's one of my objectives when I write my column. Fingers crossed that you remain COVID-free.
Glad you are doing well, Ed. Covid is scarry, most people didn't do as well as you have. All the shots and boosters, if nothing else, give a sense of at least trying to do something. Like the DMT's we're all dutifully taking we hope will help, or at least not hurt.
Living dangerously, and being increadibly alergic to flu shots, I've skipped all the Covid drugs. I've know a few people to get really sick but I look at them and they are all consumers of the 'Western Diet'. I've long since avoided the garbage food, not a burger has passed my lips in decades, and allowed my natural defenses to protect me from those nasty germs (you do hear me not knocking but banging on wood?)
Not only have I avoided Covid and the flu but my MS is doing the best in the nearly fifty years since Dx. Something to keep in mind. But, it's like the guy said jumping off the Empire State Building: So far so good!
Thanks for that interesting information. There's a lot to be said for following a healthy diet. It's great that it's held your MS at bay for a few years longer than mine has been around. I have to admit that, unfortunately, I've never been one to follow diet4 advice. I've been a garbage food eater for all of my 74 years and you know what they say about old dogs. We can knock on wood together that our separate paths continue to the same no-active-disease destination.
I always love your insights. My husband and I always wore masks, but he had to speak and present online at his place of work, in September 2022. The sound on the computer would not work in his office, so the mareketing person let him use her computer and was speaking to him when he sat down at her computer. She went home the next day with COVID. He came down with covid 3 days later and I came down with it 3 days after that.
I have MS and take Ocrevus, I had all of my vaccinations, the last being 8 months prior (on Feb 2nd). Anyway, his was like a bad cold with a low temp. Mine, however, was so bad It attacked my throat. It was the worst sore throat I can ever remember. It was not in my chest, nor my head, just my throat. I tried 2 of the home tests (up my nose), neither was positive. Disgusted, I told my husband to let me do the test. I stuck it in the back of my throat and it came out positive in just a minute. Through many hurdles, I was finally able to get Paxlovid. I don't know if it helped me, but I did not experience any rebound effect.
Unfortunately, I had to be admitted to the hospital for 5 days. Doctors feared my airway would close so they threw everything at it, including vancomycin. I finished the Paxlovid in the hospital and returned to work the next week. After discharge, I only experienced tiredness for about a week and was still able to work a full day. However, it took me a couple of months for my voice to fully recover.
Just an fyi, nt that it matters, but I am 63 years of age.
Thanks again for your writings!
Thanks for your kind comments. I'm glad you like what I write and hope that some of has been useful to you.
Thanks, also, for sharing that interesting information. I think it benefits us all to read about actual experiences that people with MS have had with COVID. I've sorry yours were so rough but I'm glad that you seem back to normal now.
I too caught covid recently after avoiding it for 3 years. We still wear masks everywhere we go. My husband went out to a restaurant for the 2nd time in 3 years and caught it immediately. He isolated but not in enough time. I caught it 4 days later. A temp of 103.5, runny nose, cough, severe sore throat and upset digestive tract were my symptoms. I started Paxlovid on day 2 and felt better by day 4. Unfortunately i rebounded after finishing the antiviral and my symptoms returned with a vengeance. 4 weeks later I am still fighting with symptoms. I don’t want to get it again.
I'm sorry you've had such a rough time. The question that we really can't answer is whether you would have had a rougher time if you hadn't used the Paxlovid. A temp of 103.5 is nothing to fool with. I hope your current symptoms ease and you're back to your normal self before too much longer.
I was diagnosed with ppms in January 2020. I have not received any COVID shots, and haven’t gotten the flu shot since 2018, as a preventative for my then pregnant wife.
I have had COVID twice, once when the Delta variant was rampant, once after the omicron variant had squeezed out the others as the predominant strain.
Both times my symptoms were similar to yours, WITHOUT, the shots. I felt that taking the shots were more like taking unnecessary medication, since I take Ocrevus, which significantly diminishes the effectiveness of vaccines in general. Also, both my mother and sister experienced significant side effects from their Pfizer jabs. Their experience cemented my decision. I wasn’t going to risk another exacerbation for something that wasn’t going to be very effective for me.
Follow your doctor’s counsel; but everyone needs to understand that the vast majority of people with COVID don’t experience severe illness, and many don’t even know they had more that seasonal allergies. Please stop perpetuating the idea that this is a life or death situation. The only ones I know that have had fatal cases had very significant cardiovascular health problems; any pneumonia would have likely had the same result.
You're right that b-cell depleting treatments, such as Ocrevus, diminish the efficacy of the COVID-19 vaccines. Their use by people being treated with those DMTs requires a conversation between patient and neurologist about the usefulness of the vaccines. Research shows, however, that with proper timing the vaccines can be beneficial to people on Ocrevus. Of course, the final decision is yours.
I'm glad your COVID cases were as mild as mine and, yes, COVID-19 isn't the life or death situation that it once was. Deaths, hospital admissions and reported cases have dropped dramatically since the early days of the pandemic and the omicron strain seems very mild. However, the World Health Organization reports nearly 6.8 million people have died, worldwide, from COVID-19. Over one million of them have been in the U.S. It's prudent to continue to be careful so that we're not caught off guard should the next strain to appear turn out to be as deadly as those in the early days.
Very pleased to hear you got over the dreadful virus so quickly and no doubt the vaccines helped.
I’m on Siponimod and have a letter from my MS Nurse advising I am not to be prescribed Paxlovid as it ‘contraindicates’. Had to Google that!
Thanks. I know that there are number of medications which are contraindicated for use with Paxlovid. Among them are statins, such as the one I use to control my cholesterol. However, my PCP told me it would be simply a matter of going off it for the time that I was using the Paxlovid. In any event, let's hope neither you nor I will need that med in the future.
I took the Paxlovid and I felt crappy on and off for over a month. Will think twice if there is a next time...
I'm sorry the Paxlovid affected you that way and, from what I hear, you're not alone. The difficult question is would your COVID have been worse than the way the Paxlovid feel. Unfortunately, neither you nor I can answer that.