A television doctor who believed he caught coronavirus through his eyes on a plane, and was left fighting for his life in the hospital, has tested negative for COVID-19, he confirmed.
Dr Joseph Fair, an infectious disease expert who spent his life studying deadly viruses, including Ebola, documented his struggle on social media and on NBC, where he works as a contributor.
The 42-year-old said he was severely sickened by something, but it was not COVID-19.
His illness ‘remains an undiagnosed mystery’, he said in a tweet on Tuesday.
Dr Joseph Fair, pictured June 17, flew to New Orleans April 24 when he believes he got infected
On Tuesday he tweeted that his illness was not, it seems, caused by COVID-19
‘I had myriad COVID symptoms, was hospitalized in a COVID ward & treated for COVID-related co-morbidities, despite testing negative by nasal swab,’ he said.
‘I was severely ill for 2 weeks, 4 days of it in critical condition, resulting in pneumonia, diffuse lung injury & 18lbs of weight loss.’
He said he would now have a second antibody test to confirm the results, and work with other specialists to find out the source of his infection.
His doctor has ordered another antibody test from a different manufacturer to confirm the negative result.
The infectious disease expert said that he was incredibly ill in May with an unknown condition
Fair will also meet with a pulmonologist again as well as a tropical medicine doctor, since he has spent time in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
‘My path forward is a 2nd AB test, & follow-up with a pulmonologist & tropical medicine specialist in an effort to diagnose what made me so ill,’ he said.
Fair believes he contracted an illness on a plane to New Orleans on April 24.
He said he took all possible precautions – wearing a mask and gloves, wiping down the area surround him – but passengers were ‘packed in like sardines’.
‘Instinctively I probably should have gotten off the flight when I saw that,’ he told NBC’s Today.
He concluded that he caught a virus through his eyes.
‘Obviously you can still get it through your eyes,’ he said.
Fair announced that he was in hospital on May 13, tweeting that he believed it was COVID-19
Fair spoke to the Today show on May 14 from his hospital bed, describing his ordeal
The 42-year-old ended up hospitalized in critical condition and relying on oxygen
CORONAVIRUS INFECTION THROUGH THE EYES
Scientists have claimed the coronavirus can enter the body through the eyes after finding they contain a protein used by the infection to bind to cells.
A team was led by Lingli Zhou of the Department of Ophthalmology, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, Baltimore analysed ten human post-mortem eyes from people who did not die of COVID-19 for the expression of ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2).
They found the eyes produce ACE-2, making them a target for the virus.
Scientists have claimed the coronavirus can enter the body through the eyes after finding they contain a protein used by the infection to bind to cells. Pictured: Healthcare worker in Ukraine
Scientists found ACE-2 was expressed in the cornea (A and B, magnified in C) and the limbus (E, magnified in F), which is the border between the cornea and the white of the eye
ACE-2 is understood to be the entry point for the virus. Its spiky surface binds to the receptors and, from there, infects the cell and replicates.
The coronavirus – scientifically called SARS-CoV-2 – latches onto ACE-2 receptors, known as the ‘gateway’ into cells inside body.
These receptors are found in the respiratory tract and the lungs, which is where the virus first infiltrates cells, as well as other organs.
ACE-2 receptors have a shape which matches the outside of the coronavirus, effectively providing it with a doorway into the bloodstream, scientists say
It’s suggested that someone with more ACE-2 receptors may be more susceptible to a large viral load – first infectious dose of a virus – entering their bloodstream.
The team also looked for TMPRSS2, an enzyme that helps viral entry following binding of the viral spike protein to ACE2.
ACE2 and TMPRSS2 must both be present in the same cell for the virus to effectively replicate.
Dr Zhou noted that viral particles can be found in tears that ‘could result in transmission to other individuals’.
It means if droplets from an infected person’s sneeze or cough were to land on the surface of the eye, the virus could begin infiltrating cells there.
It may explain why 30% of patients have suffered conjunctivitis – an inflammation of the eye which causes it to become red and infected.
‘You know, that’s one of the three known routes of getting this infection that we don’t pay a lot of attention to. We tend to focus on the nose and mouth because that’s the most common route.
‘Droplets landing on your eyes are just as infectious and of course I wasn’t wearing goggles on the flight.’
April 24: Fair flies from NYC to New Orleans.
Around April 28: Fair begins to feel ill.
Around May 5: Fair’s fly symptoms progress to ‘kind of a walking pneumonia’.
May 13: Fair tweets that he is in hospital with COVID-19.
May 14: The doctor appears on NBC’s Today show to discuss his condition, and explain he thinks he caught COVID through his eyes.
May 15: Fair again on the show, saying he is ‘almost normally breathing’ and can walk.
May 18: Fair leaves hospital.
May 19: Fair updates the show, saying he’s slowly getting better.
July 7: Fair says he has no antibodies for COVID and so his doctors do not know what was making him so ill.
Fair is certain he caught something on the plane because he went directly home but developed symptoms three to four days later, which is typical for the infections.
He said it felt like a moderately severe flu for the first week but after four days he realized he had developed ‘kind of a walking pneumonia’ – a secondary infection as a result of the virus.
Fair said that the pneumonia progressively got worse over a few days.
A week after he first experienced symptoms he was only able to breathe about a quarter of the air he was trying to take in, he said.
Fair said when he arrived at hospital he chose to have a high volume of oxygen over being intubated, which was a last resort.
Fair was tested four times for the coronavirus during his stay in hospital, and every time it came back negative.
The doctor, who typically ran up to 10 miles per day before he got sick, urged young people to be careful and used himself as an example of someone physically healthy who could be severely affected.
‘I was a very healthy person,’ he said.
‘I can run. I exercise five to six days a week.
‘And if it can take me down it can take anybody down.
‘That doesn’t mean to say it’s going to kill you. But it just really – you don’t want to have it. That’s all I can tell you.
‘And you don’t want to spread it onto anyone that has at any point at a high risk.’