I’m wondering whether coronavirus, or COVID-19, has been in the UK for months already. There’s three things that make me wonder about that.
The first is that there were a lot of reports about people who had contracted the disease in the UK, but the doctors couldn’t work out where they had got it from, because they hadn’t been in contact with anyone who had it.
The second thing is that around my way there was a really nasty virus going around this winter. Quite a few people got it, including kids at the local schools. It wasn’t flu, but it wasn’t a cold either. Fever, extreme tiredness and a cough were the symptoms. It was pretty bad, a lot of kids had to take a whole week off school. No-one could remember a virus like that for a long time.
The third thing is that most diseases turn out to have been around a lot longer than people, even doctors and researchers, initially realised. AIDS/HIV is a prime example. It turns out that people had been dying from HIV infection since the late 1950s, and possibly also as far back as the 1920s. The 1980s was when it really took hold in the USA, and when medical researchers identified it, but that’s not when it first appeared.
So COVID-19 may have been in the UK for quite a while before now, but we didn’t realise.
To be clear, I’m not saying this is the case, just that’s it’s a possibility worth exploring. Of course there may be alternative explanations for why people caught the disease without us knowing how (for example, exposure to a carrier who didn’t develop symptoms), and the bad virus that was going around this winter may be something completely different. But we should try to work out whether it has been around earlier than we thought.
I was talking to a vet friend last night, who also wondered about this, and she says that it should be possible to detect whether someone has already had COVID-19 and got over it by testing for the antibodies in their blood.
Update: I do think it’s unlikely that what went around here in winter was COVID-19. I’m saying this more in hope, really, hope that us folks around my way have already been through it, and will have the antibodies to deal with should it come back.