She came down with a bug two days after Christmas, and for the next week or so, Jean, a 64-year-old retired nurse, suffered through a series of worsening symptoms: a dry, hacking cough, a fever and body aches, and finally, a wheeze that rattled her lungs.
But after two trips to the doctor, chest X-rays and prescriptions for several medications, including a “DuoNeb” solution inhaled through a nebulizer device commonly used to treat asthma, her condition slowly improved.
Months later, after the novel coronavirus pandemic had exploded across Western Washington, the nation and into American consciousness, Jean and dozens of others like her, have wondered if their early winter colds really were undiagnosed cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the virus. But her case didn’t seem to fit the profile. She hadn’t traveled abroad, and the official timeline was off: The first known patient infected by COVID-19 — a Snohomish County man who’d recently traveled to China — wasn’t even confirmed until more than three weeks after she became ill.
“When I got sick, I didn’t even know what COVID-19 was,” said Jean, a resident of rural Snohomish County who asked only to be identified by her middle name.
But after Jean received word from her doctor earlier this month that a highly touted serology test found a sample of her blood positive for antibodies to COVID-19, she’s now convinced the official timeline is wrong — and public health officials say she may be right.
Jean is among two Snohomish County residents who have positive serology tests potentially linked to COVID-like illnesses dating back to December, throwing into question whether the coronavirus arrived in Washington, and the United States, earlier than previously known.