Country music star Reba McEntire recently shared that she and her boyfriend, actor Rex Linn, had COVID-19. But in a new interview on TalkShopLive, McEntire clarified that she ultimately did not have the infection and likely had another common viral illness instead: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Earlier this month McEntire said in a TikTok livestream that she and Linn developed COVID-19 infections despite both of them being fully vaccinated, CNN reported. But after getting an antibody test, McEntire learned that she did not actually have the novel coronavirus. “I did say that I had COVID, but when I got tested, my antibodies, it came up that I had not had COVID,” she told host Nancy O’Dell. “I had my antibodies from my vaccine.”
“So I had all the symptoms. I did get tested,” McEntire continued. “You know, the test that I had said that I had it. But then the nurse that came and tested me for my antibodies said that I probably had the RSV virus. It copies all the symptoms of COVID.”
McEntire ultimately attributes her initial COVID-19 diagnosis to a false-positive test. There are two major types of coronavirus tests available right now: rapid tests and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. McEntire doesn’t say which type of test she received, but false positives and false negatives are possible with any test. That’s why some health care providers will do a rapid test first and then confirm the result with a PCR test. Still, it’s possible for doctors to misdiagnose someone due to a lab test and the symptoms they have. And COVID-19 shares symptoms with other common illnesses.
RSV is a surprisingly common flulike illness that causes symptoms similar to other respiratory viruses, including COVID-19. Those symptoms can include congestion, coughing, loss of appetite, sore throat, low fever, headache, the Mayo Clinic says. In severe cases, patients may also develop high-pitched wheezing upon exhaling. Most otherwise healthy adults recover from RSV in a week or two without ever getting specific treatment or an official diagnosis, so they just assume it was the common cold or flu.
Without a test confirming the RSV diagnosis, McEntire can’t be sure that she had the virus. But there is currently an ongoing surge in RSV cases, particularly in the southern part of the U.S. “Whatever I had, it sure wasn’t fun,” she said. “It takes the energy plumb out of you.”
Because the symptoms of RSV and COVID-19 are so similar, it’s a good idea to contact a health care provider if you develop signs of either illness—even if you’re fully vaccinated. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) still says that anyone who has symptoms that could be COVID-19 should get tested. And those who’ve had close contact with someone who has COVID-19 should also get tested, whether or not they have symptoms and whether or not they’re vaccinated. Due to the increase in RSV cases, the CDC also recommends that health care providers consider testing for RSV if a patient tests negative for COVID-19.
The truth is that COVID-19 is a “really tricky” virus, McEntire said, because different people can develop different symptoms—and the symptoms can overlap with the symptoms of other common illnesses. But she’s fully recovered and “doing great” now. “I’m praying for everybody who’s contracted it,” she said, “family members, friends, I’m sure praying for all of you.”
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