mild Covid-19 cases
March 10, 2020 6:49 PM   Subscribe

I keep hearing that "most cases" of Covid 19 are mild. Then the news shows a previously healthy 30 year old on a ventilator in the hospital with pneumonia. Or a healthy 40 year old saying it hit them like a truck and they were so sick etc. I have seen many of these clips that seem to contradict the dominant narrative, that most cases aren't severe unless the patient is elderly or has underlying health conditions.

I would like to see some anecdotes or accounts of actual people who were Dx with a **mild** case of the virus. Not just abstract numbers that "most cases are mild to moderate." Can you show me someone talking about their mild case of Covid 19?
Just to limit the conversation: What I do not need for the purposes of this question, helpful though these might be in other contexts:
1. An explanation about how most mild cases aren't tested for covid-19
2. An explanation about how most mild cases don't go to the doctor
3. An explanation that we don't know the rate of death or that we do know the rate or that the data are still coming in
4. An explanation that many cases feel awful but aren't life threatening
5. Anything else other than...
Actual accounts or anecdotes or personal stories or news clips of people talking about their mild case of coronavirus that felt like a cold or teeny flu and then went away.
posted by nantucket to Health & Fitness (26 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Check out this woman on Twitter -- both she and her husband have mild cases (ie self quarantined at home) @microbeminded2 and she seems to posting about her experience

Edit -- sorry just realized she isn't formally diagnosed but she has all the symptoms and is a scientist so seems like she'd be more credible than average
posted by shaademaan at 6:58 PM on March 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Here’s a man who describes his case as like a “mild cold” after his fever broke:

“What’s weird about this virus is a lot of the symptoms are like a mild cold for me, without any of the drippy nose, no sneezing, no body aches. It was simply a very, very high fever that spiked for about 10 hours, disappeared, came back as a low-grade fever about two days later.”
posted by blue suede stockings at 6:59 PM on March 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Shaademaan, @microbeminded2 says: "I am not in critical condition and am stable, but since about Feb. 23rd have been very sick with the symptoms of #COVID19 minus a high fever. My boyfriend first got sick with these symptoms on Feb. 21st and we are both still ill."
Her saying she's been "very sick" for weeks doesn't sound so is this the mildest it actually gets?
posted by nantucket at 7:06 PM on March 10, 2020

There was a recent controversial case in Melbourne, Australia where a doctor worked for several days while infected. This article includes a quote which describes his case as mild:

"I had a mild cold when I returned from the USA last Saturday morning, which had almost resolved itself by Monday morning, hence my decision to return to work," he said.

"I hesitated to do a swab because I did not fulfil your criteria for testing but did one anyway on Thursday evening for sake of completeness, not imagining for one moment it would turn out to be positive."

posted by kinddieserzeit at 7:21 PM on March 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

Toward the end of this first-person account of a more serious case, the author mentions the fever (unconfirmed as COVID-19) that his grandmother got while taking care of him. Her fever lasted four days and went away, while he and his brother developed pneumonia from confirmed cases of COVID-19. Incidentally, I suspect there's misinformation in the article about antiviral treatments, etc.; this study in JAMA reported "no effective outcomes" for several things being prescribed in the same timeframe.
posted by Wobbuffet at 7:23 PM on March 10, 2020

This couple in Virginia sound like they have pretty mild symptoms.
posted by Redstart at 7:25 PM on March 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Let's be clear, severe COVID-19 is bilateral pneumonia. This is what kills people - even before COVID-19, double pneumonia kills 50,000 people per year in the US.

So yes, even a few weeks of flu symptoms would be considered at worst a moderate case of Covid-19.
posted by muddgirl at 7:28 PM on March 10, 2020 [26 favorites]

Here are 2 cases that resolved without shortness of breath or sputum, and one without fever.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:43 PM on March 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

His case is reportedly mild enough he did not notice.

The challenge you will have with your question is that generally governments will not test if it is not severe. I have a friend in China who was told she likely has it but since it is mild (sore throat, 24 hours of fever), they did not test her. She was told to self quarantine 2 weeks and stay home.
posted by frumiousb at 7:51 PM on March 10, 2020 [2 favorites]

This pull quote from a NYtimes interview with the leader of the W.H.O. team that visited China is what has me spooked:

What were mild, severe and critical? We think of “mild” as like a minor cold.

No. “Mild” was a positive test, fever, cough — maybe even pneumonia, but not needing oxygen. “Severe” was breathing rate up and oxygen saturation down, so needing oxygen or a ventilator. “Critical” was respiratory failure or multi-organ failure.

So saying 80 percent of all cases are mild doesn’t mean what we thought.

posted by egeanin at 8:15 PM on March 10, 2020 [67 favorites]

Here is a story of a mild case from Seattle, diagnosed through the Seattle Flu Study. "Although I’m better now I would not wish this very uncomfortable illness on anyone." (Public Facebook post.)
posted by k8lin at 8:38 PM on March 10, 2020 [6 favorites]

‘It’s Just Everywhere Already’: How Delays in Testing Set Back the U.S. Coronavirus Response (NYT / MSN) (via)
By Feb. 25, Dr. Chu and her colleagues could not bear to wait any longer. They began performing coronavirus tests, without government approval. What came back confirmed their worst fear. They quickly had a positive test from a local teenager with no recent travel history. The coronavirus had already established itself on American soil without anybody realizing it. “It must have been here this entire time,” Dr. Chu recalled thinking with dread. “It’s just everywhere already.”

[...] The case was a teenager, in the same county where the first coronavirus case had surfaced, who had a flu swab just a few days before but had no travel history and no link to any known case.

The state laboratory, finally able to begin testing, confirmed the result the next morning. The teenager, who had recovered from his illness, was located and informed just after he entered his school building. He was sent home and the school was later closed as a precaution.
posted by katra at 8:46 PM on March 10, 2020

I live in Seattle, and though I wasn’t tested, it seems more likely than not that I had a mild case of COVID-19. (This is just my own guess based on my symptoms and the timing, given the spread of the disease in my area.)

I’m in my late 30s and have no other health issues. Last month, I came down suddenly with a fever, dry cough, and fatigue. The fever and fatigue lasted about five days; the cough lingered a few days longer. The fatigue was major; I spent several days lying down and basically doing nothing. I also had discomfort that was typical for any fever: feeling alternately too hot and too cold; occasional shaking or muscle aches. At times I had a slight headache. The cough was milder than I typically get with a cold. I had no other symptoms.

The overall experience for me was much worse than a cold, but not as bad as the flu. If I did have the disease, my case would be considered mild because I didn't require hospitalization.
posted by mbrubeck at 9:53 PM on March 10, 2020 [1 favorite]

Speculation and self-diagnosis might not be super-helpful, to put it diplomatically. It's still cold and flu season throughout most of the Northern hemisphere. I haven't had so much as a cold in six years and got pretty knocked out twice this year - it seems irresponsible to speculate that I had a mild dose of Covid 19, although it's simultaneously quite likely that I did in fact have a coronavirus - there are lots of them.

It's going to be harder to get anecdotes of people with mild cases, because most mild cases probably don't get tested. Because the symptoms aren't enough different from those of all the other coronaviruses out there. Hell, in the US very little testing has actually happened still, even on what are likely severe cases.
posted by aspersioncast at 10:13 PM on March 10, 2020 [24 favorites]

Yes, please do take my anecdote above with a grain of salt.

Here’s another first-hand account in the Washington Post, by Carl Goldman (the same cruise ship passenger with a mild case who was featured on the Vox podcast linked above):
I am in my late 60s, and the sickest I’ve ever been was when I had bronchitis several years ago. That laid me out for a few days. This has been much easier: no chills, no body aches. I breathe easily, and I don’t have a stuffy nose. My chest feels tight, and I have coughing spells. If I were at home with similar symptoms, I probably would have gone to work as usual.
posted by mbrubeck at 10:28 PM on March 10, 2020 [3 favorites]

This NYTimes article includes a few people who have had mild symptoms, though some of the descriptions of the mildness are vague. But Rick Wright has had no symptoms:
“I feel great,” he said from his living room, where he must remain until he tests negative twice with at least 24 hours in between. “It’s so bizarre.”
posted by loop at 10:38 PM on March 10, 2020 [5 favorites]

This Australian couple from the Diamond Princess both have corona. One had a prolonged fever and headaches. The other? No symptoms at all.

The problem with low impact cases is that as aspersioncast says they're often indistinguishable from other mild colds and there's just no push to test everyone, and really its not even practical to consider it. Like I get hayfever whenever my neighbours mow, and the symptoms are often the same - sniffles, sore throat. I live fairly high density so it's twice a week. I can't get tested twice a week for Mowing Related Probably Corona. My kid brings home sniffles from school less frequently, but last year one or the other of my kids had snotty noses and coughs basically all winter. Should we be doing a test every other day?

Part of the problem is that we're only testing people who are already fairly sick, so what a mild case looks like right now depends on the mildest amount of illness that prompts a test. The bellwether is fever, but not everyone is getting that, and from close exposure testing we're finding more and more people don't even develop symptoms.
posted by Jilder at 1:31 AM on March 11, 2020 [6 favorites]

These guys apparently had no symptoms - they were only tested because they were on the same flight as a confirmed case.
posted by tinkletown at 2:31 AM on March 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Echoing those who say it it's hard to say because we're only mostly catching the worst cases. I would not take the answer you've chosen as best answer as a given.
posted by schroedinger at 4:14 AM on March 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

Is the media going to cover the mild cases or only folks near-death? Always remember, the purpose of the media is not to inform, it's to make money. They can't make money by telling people about the mild cases.

This web site is broken right now but when they're working again check out the lower-right corner of the infographic where you'll see that coronavirus is getting LOTS of media attention, thus contributing to our new mental health issues.
posted by Awfki at 5:38 AM on March 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Schroedinger: I understand your point. Just to clarify, I marked it best answer bc I am asking specifically for that kind of story and my posted questions says Just to limit the conversation: What I do not need for the purposes of this question, helpful though these might be in other contexts:
1. An explanation about how most mild cases aren't tested for covid-19
Fine to remind us of that, but I am looking for anecdotes about and information on mild cases of confirmed Covid 19, unicorns though they may be because they are rarely tested.
posted by nantucket at 7:33 AM on March 11, 2020 [2 favorites]

In this article in the New England Journal of Medicine I shared in a comment in the blue, a study found two people who tested positive but had essentially no symptoms (one had a faint rash and slight sore throat). The presence of the virus in these people was confirmed by multiple tests. Neither of them got worse over the course of 7 days in the hospital.
posted by exogenous at 10:07 AM on March 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

Is it truly wild or exceptional that the range is then "nonevent" to "death," or is that just how viruses work?
posted by uberchet at 10:24 AM on March 11, 2020 [1 favorite]

The first reported US case of COVID-19 was essentially asymptomatic at presentation. Mild cough and slightly fast pulse; nothing on chest x-ray; if not for travel history and media reporting on the outbreak in China, he wouldn't have even gone in, the urgent care workers wouldn't have sent a test to the CDC, and he probably would have chalked it up to "something viral." (Which, technically, is correct.)

He then became more symptomatic and developed high fever and pneumonia AFTER being isolated and hospitalized, but as the report points out: "These nonspecific signs and symptoms of mild illness early in the clinical course of 2019-nCoV infection may be indistinguishable clinically from many other common infectious diseases, particularly during the winter respiratory virus season."

I think there is a lot more minimally symptomatic shedding than we realize.
posted by basalganglia at 10:36 AM on March 11, 2020 [3 favorites]

The common cold presents as "upper respiratory" infection. The engine of virus propagation is in the upper respiratory system. Symptoms include a lot of mucous, dripping down the throat, sore throat, stuffy nose, inflamed sinuses.

COVID-19 binds with receptors in the lungs.

Common symptoms are aches and pains, fever, overall malaise, feeling tired.
posted by ohshenandoah at 11:51 AM on March 11, 2020

uberchet: That's just how some viruses work. You even get asymptomatic cases of stuff like tuberculosis.
posted by Jilder at 4:16 PM on March 11, 2020

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