Relatively early in the pandemic, circa late-2020, almost any physical symptom—the slightest sniffle, queasiness, or sore throat—could be a signal of impending quarantine, if not worse. That’s because COVID-19 was the focus of life on earth. As Sandra G. Boodman reports for the Washington Post, that justifiable fixation on COVID probably prolonged the suffering of the Stroud family, who endured weeks of puzzling flu-like nausea, headaches, fever, and lethargy beginning in mid-December 2020. COVID and other tests came back negative. Doctors were stumped. Oddly, the family’s symptoms came and went. Boodman writes, "One or more of them would start to feel better, but within hours their symptoms would always return."
A visit by their college-age daughter's friend ultimately led to an a-ha moment. She became sick after arriving at the family's Washington, DC, home. Her father happens to be an infectious-disease specialist, and he was "struck by [her] observation that she felt better in certain parts of the large house and worse in others." That made him think the cause was environmental—and potentially carbon monoxide poisoning. He was right: The Strouds had a leaky furnace clamp spewing odorless, toxic CO into the house. Mom Brooke Stroud came away feeling grateful but also guilt-ridden. She and her husband were aware of the dangers of CO poisoning and thought they had the right alarm installed. It turned out they didn't, and they wonder whether someone might have identified the issue sooner if not for COVID "tunnel vision." (Read the full story here.)