Symptoms of COVID-19 range from non-existent to mild to severe. If you’re one of the estimated 87.4 million Americans who have tested positive for the virus, you likely know that a COVID case is no walk in the park. Many experience a range of unpleasant symptoms, including fever, cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. In more serious cases, trouble breathing and severe chest pain can lead to hospitalization. Recently, Anthony Fauci, MD, top White House COVID adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), spoke about his experience with his COVID experience, which took some serious turns. Read on to find out what Fauci did to treat the virus, and why his symptoms became “much worse.”
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After avoiding COVID for over two years, the National Institute of Health (NIH) confirmed that Fauci tested positive on a rapid antigen test on June 15. At the time, the infectious disease expert was “experiencing mild symptoms,” per an NIH press release , which added that the COVID adviser is “fully vaccinated and has been boosted twice.”
While Fauci, who is 81 years old, was initially quiet about his illness, he eventually revealed that he was “feeling really fine” during a White House COVID press briefing on June 23,
“I had some mild symptoms last Tuesday,” Fauci said when asked about his experience with COVID, as well as his recovery during the briefing. “I checked my antigen test on Wednesday. It was positive. I had one day of symptomatology.”
But while that may have been the case at the time, Fauci gave an update on his symptoms last week, stating that he actually started to feel more unwell, even after taking medication.
During the June 23 briefing, Fauci confirmed that he had finished his five-day treatment of Paxlovid, an oral antiviral pill developed by Pfizer and authorized by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). After completing a round of Paxlovid, Fauci tested negative for COVID three days in a row, Forbes reported. But a rapid antigen test displayed a positive result on day four, with Fauci indicating he was experiencing a “Paxlovid rebound” and a resurgence of COVID symptoms.
“Over the next day or so, I started to feel really poorly, much worse than in the first go-around,” Fauci said during a remote interview with the Foreign Global Health Forum on June 28. In light of this turn of events, Fauci started another round of Paxlovid and was on day four of five during the June 28 interview.
“Fortunately, I feel reasonably good, but I’m not completely without symptoms,” Fauci said during the interview, also telling The New York Times that he credits Paxlovid for keeping him out of the hospital.
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On May 24, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an emergency health advisory about Paxlovid rebound or “COVID-19 rebound.” The treatment is used to prevent hospitalization and death due to COVID-19 and continues to be recommended for early-stage treatment among high-risk patients. However, the agency received reports of the rebound between two and eight days following initial recovery, which is what occurred in Fauci’s case.
While Fauci completed another five-day course of Paxlovid, per the CDC’s statement, there is currently no evidence that additional treatment is necessary for COVID-19 rebound.
“Based on data available at this time, patient monitoring continues to be the most appropriate management for patients with recurrence of symptoms after completion or a treatment course of Paxlovid,” the agency wrote, adding that those experiencing rebound symptoms should re-isolate for an additional five days.
As reported by CNN, during Pfizer’s clinical studies, Paxlovid rebound occurred in patients who took the treatment, as well as those who took placebo pills. Because of this, the company doesn’t believe it is related to the pill itself.
However, considering Fauci’s case and the limited number of studies evaluating the “phenomenon,” infectious disease experts have been vocal about the need for the government to further investigate the Paxlovid rebound. Ideally, researchers would develop a better understanding of who is most at risk for a rebound, as well as if the treatment should be extended beyond the five-day regimen, according to CNN. Additional studies could also help confirm that you can still spread COVID-19 during the rebound stage, as some studies have shown.
“[Fauci’s] clinical course underscores how much we need to learn about the optimal dosing and duration of antiviral treatment of Omicron infections,” Michael Charness, MD, chief of staff at the Boston VA Healthcare System, told CNN. “We also know little about the best management of severe rebound infection.”