US mayor says he had coronavirus last year, worried people dismissed it as bad flu

By Chen Qingqing and Cao Siqi Published: 2020/5/7 0:11:53

People wait in line to receive free face masks at the Prospect Park in the Brooklyn borough of New York, the United States, May 3, 2020. Photo: Xinhua

A public official in the US, who has tested positive for coronavirus antibodies and believes he was sickened in November, worried that many people in the US dismissed a potentially positive coronavirus diagnosis as a bad flu since some of his friends were sick in November and December but did not know from what.

As California Gov. Gavin Newsom has ordered all counties in the state to review autopsies of suspected coronavirus deaths dating back to December, the Chinese public is demanding clear answers from the US on when the novel coronavirus first appeared in the country and whether community transmission of the coronavirus started sooner than it was reported.

Michael Melham, the mayor of Belleville, New Jersey, told the Global Times via a statement that he visited his primary care physician on April 29 and asked to have his blood tested for antibodies related to COVID-19 as he suspected that he had been potentially positive for coronavirus in late November, but dismissed it because he kept hearing the first cases were in January.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced on January 21 the first case was a man who had returned to the Seattle area after visiting Wuhan.

Within five minutes of the blood test, the doctor shared the positive antibody results with the mayor, prompting Melham to think back to the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City in November, when he recalled driving back up the Garden State Parkway on Thursday, November 21 not feeling well, suspecting the reason was a mix of exhaustion and dehydration from the three-day event.

But Friday and Saturday of that week were no better. By Sunday night, Melham was awake all night, battling chills, hallucinations and a skyrocketing temperature. "I felt as if I was an addict going through withdrawal," the Mayor recalled. "I didn't know what was happening to me. I never felt so sick."

The doctor assumed that Melham had contracted the flu and advised that he would recuperate with a few more days of rest and fluids. It had eventually run its course.

That harrowing few days prompted Melham to ask his primary care physician to test him for the coronavirus antibody during his annual physical. And April 29 was when the mayor learned that he was likely among the first batch of cases in the US.

"We all hear about how COVID-19 didn't really exist here in the US until January," Melham said. "That is obviously not the case. I am living, breathing proof that we were all dealing with it months earlier. Others have also told me they were really sick in November and December. We just didn't know from what. My fear is that there are many who dismissed a potentially positive coronavirus diagnosis as a bad flu. They do not realize they have an antibody and they can donate their blood plasma to help others."

Melham is urging other fully recovered people who tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies to donate their plasma, which has antibodies that can attack the virus.

This convalescent plasma is being evaluated as a treatment for patients with serious or immediate life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those judged by a healthcare provider to be at high risk of progression to a severe or life-threatening disease.

The mayor's case echoed previous suspicions that some flu-related deaths in the US may have connections with COVID-19.

Robert Redfield, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said some COVID-19 deaths have been diagnosed as flu-related in the US. Redfield made the remarks when responding to a question at a hearing about whether people in the US dying of what appears to be influenza could in fact have been infected with the coronavirus.

Due to the lack of coronavirus tests in the US, many patients who died of influenza haven't been tested to see whether they were also infected with the coronavirus, some health experts previously pointed out.

The Chinese public, even the whole world, is now demanding the US offer clear answers to questions about why the US government ignored warnings when US intelligence officials warned of a coronavirus crisis as early as last November, and among the reported influenza deaths in the US, can the US clarify how many cases are actually infected with COVID-19?

Posted in: AMERICAS

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