Saturday 23 May 2020

Fergus's coronavirus conundrum

Fergus Walsh

I've been chuckling about this all day so I had to share it with you.

Fergus Walsh, the BBC's medical correspondent, has written about how he was 'gobsmacked' to repeatedly test positive for the coronavirus antibody (meaning, obviously, that he has had the virus).

Imperial College London are testing these finger-prick home antibody tests for accuracy and ease of use. One of the team there calculated that my repeated positive tests made it incredibly unlikely that I was continually producing a false result. In other words, it seems I have definitely had coronavirus.

 In retrospect, this should not have come as such a shock.

I've not had any symptoms in recent months. I'm rarely ill, but I did have a bout of pneumonia in early January. I was off sick for about 10 days and had a cough and a high temperature. I couldn't shake it off. My GP in Windsor diagnosed a bacterial infection and gave me antibiotics. These helped a bit, but in late January I needed another course of antibiotics. These seem to have done the trick. Was it really Covid-19? 

Given that he had the two main symptoms and has tested positive, it does rather sound like it, doesn't it? 

I don't think so. 


The first confirmed case of coronavirus in the UK was in late January when two people from China fell ill in York. It wasn't until a month later that the first cases of domestic transmission occurred. Note that although I'd been reporting on the outbreak in China by mid-January, the farthest afield I'd been in recent months was Christmas in Brussels.

But it has since been established that the coronavirus was spreading in Europe in December, if not earlier. We have a confirmed case in France was who treated on 27 December. This is accepted by the WHO (who said it was 'not surprising') and was widely reported earlier this month, including by the BBC.

So I don't think I missed a story here - the first coronavirus case in the UK was not me. But after that I've had no symptoms at all. Not a cough, not a high temperature, smell and taste normal, and no aches and pains, headaches, diarrhoea, conjunctivitis, skin rash or any of the other possible warning signs listed by the World Health Organization.

So, apart from that time when he was really ill for ten days with the classic symptoms of coronavirus, he hasn't any coronavirus symptoms. What a lucky escape!

Fergus goes on to say that 'having a positive test did not change my mindset' and that he still assumes 'that everybody I meet has coronavirus, and that I have it.'

And he welcomes the government's roll out of extensive antibody testing because...

It will also give us the first really accurate picture of how many people have had coronavirus without knowing it, so-called asymptomatic cases - people, it seems, like me.


I don't know what's more funny. The fact that the BBC's medical correspondent didn't realise - even with hindsight - that he was personally involved in the biggest health story of his lifetime. Or that a journalist is so trusting of claims from authorities that nothing - not personal experience, not repeated diagnostic testing, not even the fact that the claims have been made obsolete by subsequent evidence - will stop him believing them.

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