CORONAVIRUS

Coronavirus USA: Can you get Covid-19 twice?

There is no conclusive evidence as yet that people can become reinfected with Covid-19 but researchers are studying thousands of patients to try and reach a definitive conclusion.

Coronavirus USA: Can you get Covid-19 twice?
ULISES RUIZ AFP

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic the general belief was that people would only be able to contract the novel coronavirus once, however recent reports from South Korea suggest that some patients who recovered from the disease and tested negative, later tested positive in subsequent tests.

There have been a number of cases of people testing positive for Covid-19 several times. One of them is footballer Paulo Dybala from Juventus who tested positive four times and without ever showing  symptoms. Further, at least 14 sailors aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt who recovered from Covid-19 then tested positive for a second time.

Experts say that the perplexing results don’t necessarily establish that a person can become infected twice, the positive results following negative tests may be a quirk related to the type of test that was used. In the U.S. nearly all the diagnostic tests look for snippets of the virus' RNA or genetic code.

However, according to guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, "detection of viral RNA does not necessarily mean that infectious virus is present." In other words, the test may be picking up a piece of the viral RNA that's been left behind, rather than a fully intact, infectious virus particle.

A second positive test after a negative result may mean the virus is simply taking its time leaving the body, doctors said, and is no longer able to infect others. "It's possible that people could shed remnants of the virus for some period of time. That doesn't mean anything is wrong with them or that they are contagious," said Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.