Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Did I Just Survive SARS? The Perils of Believing Anything on the Internet!

My sickness is now 75% contained.  In looking back, it couldn't have been a common cold, but that's what it seemed to start out as.  It morphed into a vicious (and viscous!) something else. Being almost a doctor, my curiosity was piqued.  So I put all of my symptoms into a web-based medical site which will diagnose your problem and it came up with a differential including SARS!

Now my history with SARS is quite extensive.  I was at the heart of the origins of the disease while in Guangzhou China, months before they had a name for it.  When completing adoption paperwork at the Chinese Consulate, we were surrounded by throngs of mask-wearing Chinese desiring a visa in the streets.  Our Chinese handlers advised us to not touch anyone or allow anyone to touch us or the baby.  People were dying by the scores in the areas surrounding the city.  No one knew what scourge had been unleashed into the world this time, and there was literal panic about.  I had just been in the Hospital for gastroenteritis and was particularly susceptible to whatever was happening.  I had even spent most of the afternoon in an IV room where people were receiving their treatments for tuberculosis. Luckily, I was too stupid to be overly uptight.  I always seem to have that going for me!

Looking up the symptoms of SARS, it was amazing to see that I had every single one of them this week.


The hallmark symptoms are:
  • Cough
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Fever greater than 100.4 degrees F (38.0 degrees C)
  • Other breathing symptoms
The most common symptoms are:
  • Chills and shaking
  • Cough -- usually starts 2-3 days after other symptoms
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
Less common symptoms include:
  • Cough that produces phlegm (sputum)
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
In some people, the lung symptoms get worse during the second week of illness, even after the fever has stopped.

  Except for the fact that I was exposed to the virus (yes a variant of a common cold virus) more than 11 years ago, a health-care provider could reasonably diagnose the condition given my symptoms and response to treatment.  I got better when started on antibiotics.  Addendum: I still feel horrible and my patient compassion has suffered dramatically. But that wasn't in the symptoms.

He would be wrong, of course, which brings me to the point of my post.  Don't use the internet to diagnose yourself.  And Heaven forbid, don't use to diagnose anything.

Coming Soon:  Running and Puking in China, a Short Story...


  1. Based on those symptoms, one might guess you'd just run a marathon. And are you sure Annie isn't a sleeper SARS cell?

  2. My daily mileage through the ordeal is:
    day 1 1 mile treadmill
    day 2 3 miles treadmill
    3 miles elliptical
    day 3 1 mile treadmill
    day 4 1 mile treadmill
    day 5 2 miles treadmill
    2 miles elliptical

    At this rate I will achieve the marathon distance by day 16 or so!

  3. Anne was certainly allergic to America at first. But I think her loyalties to everything America stands for are above all else. She's on the cross country course right now!


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