A 25-year-old man in Nevada tested positive for the coronavirus twice, once in mid-April and the second time in early June, according to a new report published Monday in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. The patient is the first known person in North America to suffer from symptomatic reinfection of COVID-19. In other words, this is the first confirmed US case where a person tested positive for the coronavirus, had symptoms clear up, and then developed symptoms and tested positive a second time.
The patient featured in the new report first tested positive for COVID-19 on April 18. He had no underlying conditions, nor did he have any health problems that caused a weakened immune system. But he had been experiencing symptoms often caused by the coronavirus—namely, sore throat, headache, cough, diarrhea, and nausea—so he went for a test at a community testing event in Washoe County, Nevada, where the patient lives. He tested positive for the coronavirus and went into isolation. While quarantining, the patient’s symptoms cleared up.
He maintained good health for about a month before getting sick again on May 28, when he started suffering from many of the same symptoms he’d experienced during his first go with COVID-19. Specifically, the nausea, cough, headache, and diarrhea returned. He also felt dizzy this time, and he had a self-reported fever.
These symptoms prompted the patient to seek help at an urgent care clinic. A chest x-ray was done, and the patient was cleared to go home. However, the patient sought help again five days later from a primary care doctor. There, doctors noted that he was experiencing shortness of breath and hypoxia, or low oxygen levels. After his primary care physician gave him oxygen, he was told to go straight to the emergency room. The report authors wrote that the patient’s second COVID-19 infection brought on more severe symptoms than his first.
While this is the first documented case of a patient in North America suffering from symptomatic COVID-19 two different times, similar observations have been made in Ecuador, Hong Kong, Belgium, and the Netherlands, per the report in The Lancet Infectious Diseases.
So does this mean that people who have had the coronavirus and recovered are definitely at risk for contracting it again? Right now, the answer is unclear. The report authors acknowledged that scientists don’t fully understand how, or if, immunity against COVID-19 is developed in some individuals after their first COVID-19 infection.
The information in this story is accurate as of press time. However, as the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to evolve, it's possible that some data have changed since publication. While Health is trying to keep our stories as up-to-date as possible, we also encourage readers to stay informed on news and recommendations for their own communities by using the CDC, WHO, and their local public health department as resources.
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