Is it possible to get Covid-19 twice?

Written By: Margaret Kalekye
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Kenya has officially reported full recovery of a Covid-19 patient. 

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Although the number of those infected has gone up by 30 since the first case was reported on March 13th, the recovery of the patient has raised hope among Kenyans that the government will win the war against this deadly virus.

Director General of Health Dr. Patrick Amoth said the patient who was the second coronavirus case to be reported in the country has made full recovery after testing negative for two tests and has been discharged from Mbagathi hospital.

Globally there has been a high recovery rate with more than half of the patients having recovered.

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But the question in Kenyans’ minds is can a cured patient be re-infected?

According to Dr Amoth who was addressing journalists Thursday during the daily briefing on Covid-19 by the Ministry of Health, there’s a likelihood of reinfection for patients who have recovered.

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He says it is advisable for the patient who has been discharged to continue observing laid down health safeguards and measures noting that a cured patient is at risk of reinfection if exposed to the virus.

But experts hold varied views on the issue. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it is still not clear whether reinfection is possible.

“The immune response to Covid-19 is not yet understood,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) explains. “Patients with MERS-CoV infection 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.”

While further studies are needed to understand whether it is possible for an individual to be reinfected with new coronavirus, experts recommend those who have been infected follow the hygiene steps outlined by CDC and WHO, which include staying away from people who are sick, frequently washing hands, and covering coughs and sneezes.

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Japan case

In February, the Japanese government reported that a woman in her 40s, who had been working as a tour bus guide, had been re-infected with the coronavirus, testing positive after having recovered from an earlier infection.

The woman, a resident of Osaka in western Japan, first tested positive for the virus in late January but was discharged from the hospital after recovering. She tested positive again on Feb. 26 after developing a sore throat and chest pains, the government said in a statement.

The case in Japan and another similar second-positive test reported in China earlier in February have raised concerns about the recovered patient’s immunity to the virus.

Stanley Perlman, a coronavirus expert at the University of Iowa told Global News that when it comes to these cases, officials need to determine whether the patients are really re-infected, or if the virus was “never really cleared” from their bodies.

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Either way, Perlman says it is a “puzzling observation.”

“I think either of these scenarios is a bit concerning because we would have expected the infected person to have made an immune response so that you couldn’t be reinfected, certainly not two or three weeks later,” he said. “On the other hand, we would have expected the virus to be completely cleared so it couldn’t recrudescence two or three weeks later.”

Mutate

While further studies are needed to understand whether it is possible for an individual to be reinfected with new coronavirus, some experts agree with Dr Amoth that reinfection is possible.

“But just as the flu can mutate, so could Covid-19, which would make an individual susceptible to reacquiring the infection,” they observe.

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