51 ‘Cured’ COVID-19 Patients Test Positive Again in South Korea

Reactivation of the virus, instead of reinfection, could be the reason behind the result, Korean CDC said.

2 min read
Workers wearing protective suits spray disinfectant as a precaution against the coronavirus at a market in Bupyeong, South Korea.

According to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, around 51 COVID-19 patients who had earlier been declared cured in South Korea, tested positive with the novel coronavirus again, Bloomberg reported.

Jeong Eun-kyeong, director-general of the Korean CDC, said that the virus may have ‘reactivated’ in these cases because they tested positive just a little after being released from quarantine. Reactivation, instead of reinfection, could be the reason behind the results.

“While we are putting more weight on reactivation as the possible cause, we are conducting a comprehensive study on this. There have been many cases when a patient during treatment will test negative one day and positive another.”
Jeong Eun-kyeong

Son Young-rae, a spokesman for the health and welfare ministry of South Korea, told the Financial Times, “We say that a patient has fully recovered when he or she tests negative twice within 24 hours. But the fact that some of them tested positive again in a short period means that the virus remains longer than we thought.”

An epidemiological probe will be conducted into the cases to understand the possible explanations behind testing positive again.

Other Countries Where Recovered Patients Tested Positive for COVID-19

Confusion regarding the probability of reinfection gained ground when such cases began to be reported from China, Japan and South Korea.

A study from China, for instance, looked at four medical workers in Wuhan who had recovered from the infection. They tested positive thrice consecutively after once having been released from quarantine.

Experts from around the world have theorised multiple alternate explanations for such relatively ‘rare’ cases. These include errors in testing and diagnosis, false negatives, low viral load of the disease post-recovery and early discharge, among others.

The possibility of reinfections and what it would mean for our understanding of the virus and its mutation would have implications for vaccine development. As knowledge about the virus is still evolving, many questions about it remain unanswered. Further studies into such cases will help provide a clearer perspective on reinfections and reactivation. You can read more about all we know about this probability here.

(With inputs from Bloomberg)

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