Family doctor: I'm seeing an unusual amount of unusual pneumonia lately

Dr. Karmen Joller.
Dr. Karmen Joller. Source: ERR

Family doctor Karmen Joller has seen an unusual amount of patients in her practice recently that have displayed symptoms of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) but have nonetheless tested negative for the virus.

"In my practice I'm currently seeing an unusual amount of strange pneumonia in otherwise healthy, mostly young or middle-aged people," Joller wrote on social media. "In many cases, several members of a single family have gotten sick. Symptoms have been incredibly moderate for pneumonia — there have been frequent complaints of a dry cough from time to time; fatigue; some shortness of breath or tightness of chest, which isn't constant; some have also had a steady light fever."

According to the doctor, all of these patients get better without any complications, but it has taken time to get better.

"I can't outright claim that this is COVID-19, because everyone has tested negative and people do still get atypical pneumonia from time to time," she continued. "At the same time, I can't rule out that the novel coronavirus is behind their illness."

Joller noted that negative coronavirus tests could be explained by a number of factors, even if someone does in fact have the virus. Test results depend, among other factors, on whether and to what extent the virus is present where and when the patient is swabbed, how successfully the swab is taken, the handling and transport of the sample, but also the methodology of the testing itself. Someone may only end up actually infected after being tested as well.

Joller also recommended when it would be appropriate to call emergency services in response to one's symptoms.

"Shortness of breath is a symptom you need pay careful attention to," she wrote. "If walking for two minutes is difficult or if you are unable to count to ten in one breath, call an ambulance!"

In case of symptoms pointing toward the coronavirus, one should consider themselves infected even in the case of a negative test and avoid close contact with other people, Joller added.


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Editor: Aili Vahtla

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