GUEST POST by Pamela Comer who serves as Director of McNair Scholars at Lamar University in Beaumont Texas. The McNair Scholars program is a federal grant funded program that prepares undergrads from underrepresented populations for doctoral study. Pamela has a Master’s degree in Clinical Mental Health Counseling and is a National Certified Counselor.
Last night at church as we were sharing prayer requests, I asked for prayer for someone I know who tested positive for COVID-19. As others shared stories of those who had tested positive, the mood was somber, as if we had learned of someone who had received the news of a terminal illness.
I thought to myself, is this really how we should be reacting to the news of the number of positive cases increasing?
My curious nature took me on a search to learn more about the testing that is currently being done for COVID-19. I learned something today and hopefully I can communicate it in a way that may help someone else wrap their brain around the topic.
I certainly don’t claim to be an expert on the subject, but I have a desire to learn and be informed and make the best decisions that affect my health and of those around me.
Today I was reading the explanation given on the CDC website for a COVID-19 viral positive test result which states the following:
“Viral tests check samples from your respiratory system, such as a swab from the inside of your nose, to tell you if you currently have an infection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”
This caused me to question what the SARS-CoV-2 virus is and why it has a different name than COVID-19.
A deeper look took me to the World Health Organization (WHO) website where I found information about the official names for the DISEASE (COVID-19) and the VIRUS (SARS-CoV-2) or severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2.
The International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV) are the ones who name the viruses and they announced the name of the new virus on Feb. 11, 2020.
Diseases are named by WHO and they announced “COVID-19” as the name of this new disease on the same day, Feb. 11, 2020.
The information went on to explain why the VIRUS and the DISEASE have different names. Viruses can CAUSE a disease (not the other way around). We tend to think of the name of the disease but not always the virus that causes it. For example, HIV is a virus that causes AIDS. Not everyone who is HIV positive will get AIDS. Another example might be this: Smoking causes cancer (among many other things), but cancer never causes smoking.
On the CDC website I also found a graphic which stated that not everyone with COVID-19 feels sick (this we have heard over and over).
It stated that a new report showed 238 U.S. Service members on a naval aircraft carrier (young healthy adults) tested positive for a current (viral test) or previous (antibody test) infection of COVID-19 … and that 1 in 5 of these had no symptoms. Which would indicate to me that they really didn’t have the disease but were a carrier of the virus.
So … back to the CDC explanation stated above. Following this logic, if you take a viral test sample (the nose swab test) … and get a positive result … this would indicate that you have an infection or the VIRUS that causes COVID-19. Which in my mind would NOT indicate that you have the DISEASE COVID-19.
This information is important to keep in mind when you see the numbers of positive test results.
Viruses are common and agreed this one can be deadly. However, having a positive test result does NOT mean you will experience symptoms or that it will eventually turn into the disease which may or may not result in death.
I agree that COVID-19 should be taken seriously, however a positive test result does not mean a death sentence.
Monitor yourself for symptoms, do what you can to avoid getting sick, seek medical attention when you experience symptoms, but don’t allow fear and anxiety (or the media) to overwhelm you.