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Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay

I realize there are two very strong driving forces in our country right now. I just want to acknowledge this fact from the start. That being said, I am only going to address one of them.

I have two friends, let’s call them Max and Cindy. They live here among us, work along side of us, send their kids to the same schools, attend local churches and sit beside us in them. They are like us.

But they are not.

They are the only local folks I know who have direct experience with COVID-19.

And their experience is worth relaying because I think it is likely a very common one.

Cindy somehow contracted the virus, gloves and mask notwithstanding, while likely at work. She works in a public space and all the necessary precautions had been followed as laid out by her employer. And yet she became infected. Upon testing positive, she was sent home for 14 days. Her husband Max, also in and out of businesses with his line of work, was also quarantined. They have two adult-ish kids still at home. During their time of convalescence, they did home improvement projects and worked in their yard. Cindy described her symptoms as “not feeling well”.  She and Max slept in the same bed and shared meals.

14 days passed.

They both went back to work.

Several weeks later, they and their daughter, a young adult living in the same household, were all tested for the COVID antibody. Antibody tests, by the way, are thought to represent the gold standard of immunity from further infection.

Cindy tested positive for the antibody. Max and his daughter did not.


A person can be in direct contact for 14 days and not have been infected and not produced any antibodies and not expressed any symptoms?

This begs the question, if something like COVID-19 is so virulent and deadly and contagious and infectious, how did two out of three, living in the same household, encounter the corona virus and not show evidence that they had? Even if Max and his daughter expressed no outward symptoms, shouldn’t they have at least produced the antibodies?

Great question I must admit!

If all the news about this virus is to be believed, and all the “safety” measures that were enacted as a result are to be justified, then why did these common folks (sorry Max and Cindy, very uncommon in many ways!) have such a rather uncommon experience? Why did Max and his kid not even have the decency to produce the antibody? If they had produced the antibody, wouldn’t that at least in part justify the worst case scenario we have all been fed? Particularly with the impending and dreaded “second wave” right around the corner?

Questions, Questions. (At this point, I feel like the world’s oldest 2 year old, having discovered the word “why”).

Based on the data now becoming available, I’m afraid this rather uncommon experience might be rather common after all. Maybe many of us are not even susceptible. I have read estimates by reputable scientist claiming upwards of 80% may fall into this category.

So what is going on? How can this be?

Consider a few possible explanations for this seemingly strange outcome.

The first explanation and at least partially true for Max his child, is a genetic factor. Could their genes have provided an immuno-protective benefit which allowed them to come into contact with a “novel” virus without even a scratch? Yes, it is possible and also likely. Our immune system is designed to encounter nature and adapt to it.

The second explanation which may also be in play is the strength of their non-specific immune system, or first responders. Hearkening back to an earlier blog, (Moving Forward Together) the non-specific immune system is like the household watch dog. She typically alerts the master of the house and in some cases frightens the intruder (virus) away completely before dad can get his gun (antibody). The non-specific immune response, like a dog, is indiscriminate in its approach to invaders. If something in your system doesn’t belong, your non-specific response charges ahead. The second and slower response, the specific response, builds an antibody, or a memory if you will, of the invader. This process typically takes 7 days. If the invader ever shows up again, he will be remembered and dealt with. Part of our immune system is fast acting, the other is slow and methodical and specific. We need them both and in balance. Likely for Max, his nonspecific response was in great shape, from years of social and environmental contact, and the invader was dealt with before an antibody could even be built. The dog scared the bad guy away before dad was even out of bed!

The third possible explanation is that perhaps this virus, which belongs to a family of viruses known as corona viruses, due to their shape, may not be as novel as originally thought. Perhaps it shares enough in common with other viruses of this class (there are 7 known to infect humans, and four are indistinguishable from the common cold or flu, the other three can provoke a bigger response) that specific immunity takes over and deals with it before symptoms can manifest.

All three of these explanations are plausible, singularly or in combination. For a very excellent, in-depth explanation of these scenarios, see Professor Sunetra Gupta of the University of Oxford, (The Epidemic On Its Way Out).

So has our response been appropriate to the threat or has it been completely overblown?

True science requires robust debate, not consensus. Large amounts of disagreement should be welcomed at the table so that a true testable hypothesis can be generated. In the current pandemic climate, this simple fact is being ignored, except by Sweden. There are too many exceptions to the predicted outcomes to even take the claims being made about this virus seriously. 

Let your inner 2 year old out. Keep asking why. And then ask again.



P.S. Thanks Max and Cindy for your permission to share your story!

4 Join the Conversation

  1. Cookie says
    Jun 12, 2020 at 5:22 PM

    Thanks Swaimy! Very informative!

    • says
      Jun 12, 2020 at 10:28 AM

      I'm glad you find it so! Dr. Swaim

  2. David Ah Sing says
    Jun 12, 2020 at 7:47 PM

    See why you're such an intelligent dude, Dr. Swaim. Excellent info and summation.

    • says
      Jun 12, 2020 at 4:06 PM

      Wow! Thanks Mr. Ah Sing. Kind and VERY generous words. Hope all is well with you and yours in one of the hot-spot states! Cheers, ks

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