A JAPANESE man who appeared to have recovered from coronavirus tested positive again less than three weeks after he left a medical facility where he was being treated.
The Japanese man who is in his seventies first tested positive February 14 while aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship during its quarantine.
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He was then disembarked and put in further quarantine at the medical facility in Tokyo, getting the all-clear on March 2, according to Japanese news agency NHK.
He returned home to the Mie Prefecture, within the Kansai region, via public transport, but he began showing symptoms of the virus again and developed a fever of 39C on Thursday, March 12.
He went to a hospital for a re-test and was confirmed positive on Saturday, March 14.
While it is rare, this is not the only case of coronavirus reinfection.
One of the scariest things about the virus is that experts do not know much about how Covid-19 behaves.
Here’s what we know about recurrent coronavirus
Can you get coronavirus a second time?
Yes, but it is rare.
Has this happened before?
Yes. A Japanese woman tested positive for the virus for a second time on February 27 after seemingly recovering from the illness several weeks before.
The Osaka woman is in her forties and is believed to be the first person to have tested positive for Covid-19 a second time outside of China.
Doctors from different parts of China reported that they had similar cases of the same pattern.
Doctors in Wuhan have since called for stricter patient discharge requirements.
How could it happen?
Some experts are saying that the virus could be bi-phasic, meaning the disease could appear to go away before recurring.
There could be a mistake in the diagnostic testing, or the virus could be persistent.
What about antibodies?
Leading scientists are worried as they say there is no guarantee of people becoming permanently immune to the virus after being infected and recovering.
The hope is that our bodies will bat it off once someone has recovered from it like we do with chickenpox, but it is too early to accurately tell.
Director of pneumonia prevention and treatment at China Japan Friendship Hospital in Beijing, Li QinGyuan believes a protective antibody is generated in those who are infected.
He added: “However, in certain individuals, the antibody cannot last that long.
“For many patients who have been cured, there is a likelihood of relapse.”
A hospital director in Beijing, Li Qingyuan, believes that Certain individuals, including those who are immunocompromised, may also be at higher risk of contracting the virus again according to USAToday.
Virologist at Sussex University’s School of Life Sciences Dr Edward Wright, said: “There could be several reasons why a person could test positive, then negative, then positive again.
“It could have been a mistake in the diagnostic test, or there are some examples of viruses becoming persistent – coronaviruses are not known to become persistent but we just don’t know yet.
“Getting reinfected is unlikely, but it’s also not something that can be ruled out.” he told The Independent.
The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that the immune response to Covid-19 is not yet understood, saying that patients infected with Mers-CoV are unlikely to be reinfected shortly after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with Covid-19.
Officials are concerned that the government’s policy of allowing large numbers of the British population to fall ill with the virus in hopes of creating “herd immunity”, is reckless as it is too soon to know if people will become permanently immune to Covid-19 as with other vaccinated diseases.
Head of virology at the National Institute for Biological Standards and Control, Dr Nicola Rose, said: “With flu, for example, it comes and goes in waves. This may well be the case here. We really don’t know whether there will be herd immunity or not.”
People who have been infected should follow hygiene steps outlined by the NHS and other health authorities, including keeping a distance away from people who are sick, limiting travel, washing hands often with soap and water, disinfecting surfaces and tools like keyboards and phones, not touching your face or beard, and covering coughs and sneezes.
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