Nefertiti Brown, MD's life is on pause right now. The 39-year-old physician is quarantined in her home, awaiting results from a COVID-19 test she took nearly two weeks ago. Brown, a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, is an attending physician in California. Brown spoke with MD+DI on Saturday about her experience and how she hopes it can make an impact on others.
“Shortly after daylight savings time, I noticed that I was feeling tired,” the New York native recounted. “But I’m always tired. I’m a physician – I’m always working at some baseline of fatigue. At first, I didn’t pay attention to it, I thought it was me not reacting to the time change or me getting older. It was getting to the point I could barely get out of bed. I was willing myself and pulling myself out of bed.”
The symptoms of fatigue continued as Brown went into her office. She began laying her head on her desk – a practice that was out of the ordinary for the yoga enthusiast and avid-runner. Brown went on and took her temperature, but it was normal.
But that would eventually change.
“While I was counseling a patient with my medical assistant … I started sweating in the room,” Brown told MD+DI. “I started fanning myself with the clipboard and I was thinking wow, it just suddenly got really hot in here.”
Her temperature was elevated prompting her to leave. Brown was tested for the virus March 18th. A rise in test cases have delayed her getting her results she said.
“Since [being tested], I have been on quarantine and it has been a very wicked ride,” she said. “From that point, I was having daily fevers. I could not get below 100 degrees in my temperature. Then my cough came; then Diarrhea came; then headaches.”
There are now more than 152,631 people in the U.S. suffering from COVID-19, according to data from worldometers. Nearly 6,197 of those cases are in California, where Brown resides.
There have also been several tests that have been greenlit by FDA to detect the disease which has claimed the lives of 2,817 in the U.S. FDA has been on a tear lately working to approve and grant emergency use authorization to companies with these diagnostics.
In a release, the agency said it, “has been providing unprecedented flexibility to labs and manufacturers to develop and offer COVID-19 tests across the U.S. FDA said its regulations have not hindered or been a roadblock to the rollout of tests during this pandemic.”
Over the weekend, FDA granted emergency use authorization for a COVID-19 test from Abbott Laboratories that can detect the virus in as little as five minutes. As a result, the Abbott Park, IL-based company’s shares soared Monday.
But it will take more than just tests to weather the COVID-19 storm Brown said. She noted that there is a high rate of false negatives.
“The current false-negative rate for COVID-19 testing is 30%, she said. “Meaning, out of say 100 negative test results, 30 people told that they don’t have the virus will actually be positive because the test didn’t accurately detect the presence of the disease. They won’t be aware.”
She added that people need to understand that because this false/negative rate is so high, that staying at home and social distancing is important.”
During her quarantine and with a visit to the ER when her symptoms worsened, Brown has found herself becoming an advocate appearing on social media and podcasts to speak about the disease. Her job is fully supportive and there is constant communication with public health officials about her case. For Brown, there are still so many questions – especially if her test results come back positive.
Brown noted the question of what’s next is a multi-pronged one that can’t be answered in one sitting.
“How long should I be on quarantine? We’ve heard about these numbers from Asia about quarantining yourself for 14 days and all of these types of things. I have friends and myself that are about to go on past 14 days and we’re still not fully recovered. We still have some symptoms. How do we know exactly when to return to work? Do we even know about the true incubation period of this disease? We’re all learning together.”