COVID-19 patient re-infected: How you should view it

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What does a coronavirus expert say about re-infection?

This week saw the first confirmed case of a patient previously treated for a COVID-19 infection testing positive again months later.

The patient, a 33-year old Hong Kong man, first tested positive on March 26 after experiencing the “classic” coronavirus symptoms of a cough, fever and sore throat. His symptoms proved severe enough to require a hospitalization, but he worked toward a full recovery and tested negative in April.

But upon returning from a trip to Europe, a routine screening test came back positive on Aug. 15.

The patient, though, was not experiencing any of the symptoms he displayed before or any symptoms at all. He was asymptomatic.

Via genetic sequencing, researchers were able to determine his second infection is a different COVID-19 strain than his first. This confirmed it as a re-infection rather than a mutation lingering from the first infection.

Says Dr. Anthony Ognjan, an infectious disease specialist at McLaren Macomb:

I would urge anyone following this story to view it in context of the pandemic as a whole and not let it add any extra anxieties or distress we might already be feeling about the virus.

While this is the first confirmed case of re-infection, this is actually not wholly unexpected due to the nature of previous coronaviruses, which have been associated with the common cold and have been recurrent.

And of the almost 24 million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, this demonstrates that confirming re-infected patients is still rare, with unknown risk but a scarce possibility.

With that, this re-infection case could mean a number of things, many of them actually reasons to be optimistic. For instance, this patient, who experienced serious symptoms in March, was asymptomatic the second time. Despite the fact he was re-infected, he may still carry some degree of immunity, offering a level of protection resulting in asymptomatic or mild disease.

The one definitive thing this case tells us about the virus is that there is still much more to learn about it. This news was announced not as part of peer reviewed clinical study, so we have not had the opportunity to thoroughly investigate this case to make other clinical determinations.

Nevertheless, we should all still continue the same safety precautions and practices to protect our own health and the health of those around us.


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