Were 88 peoples in Rwanda so unlucky they caught Covid-19 twice, or is there another explanation?
This question is being asked after around 2 percent of those who had already recovered from the virus in that country tested positive again.
It’s not the first time this has happened. It has been reported in China, although details of how many people were affected aren’t entirely clear. Early on in the outbreak, the same thing happened to a woman in Japan.
For Sweden, which opted for a herd immunity approach, this could mean it’s time for an urgent strategy change.
If reinfection is possible, this also has potential to derail plans for an ‘immunity passport’ approach discussed by some countries, where those who have recovered from Covid-19 are allowed to return to work because they’re no longer vulnerable to the virus.
But are people really catching it twice?
Faulty testing, different virus strains or the virus reactivating are all theories for the illness double-whammy. Catching the virus twice falls onto the less likely side of the equation.
How can you be negative and then positive?
What’s considered to be the most likely explanation to a positive test after recovery is that, for a time, the virus in a person’s body dipped below levels which could be detected in a test.
University of Auckland research fellow Dr Janine Paynter said one paper has shown what could be the answer.
Using the term ‘reinfection’ to describe what has occurred could be incorrect, she says. Rather than catching the virus twice, a person may not have entirely rid themselves of their original infection.
“There’s a point at which the virus has fallen so low that the test doesn’t work but it doesn’t mean the virus is not there.”
The paper, which has been peer-reviewed, looked at samples from nine patients with mild cases of Covid-19 over a number of days.
“What was happening was the virus numbers were varying, particularly towards the end of the infection, so it dropped below the sensitivity of the test.”
This could lead to somebody testing negative one day and then positive another.
“It seemed like people were getting reinfected but they weren’t. It’s a virus that hangs around.”
The Express News