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First COVID-19 reinfection case reported in Hong Kong

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HONG Kong has recorded first case of reinfection with coronavirus researchers announced today.

  Researchers at the University of Hong Kong’s department of microbiology said that an apparently young and healthy patient had a second episode of COVID-19 infection which was diagnosed 4 and half months after the first episode.

  According to report, the findings could have significant implications for the development of vaccines and what is known about natural immunity against COVID-19.

  Experts say, the case illustrates reinfection can occur a few months after recovery from the first infection.

  “The man had no symptoms – was asymptomatic – during the second infection which was picked up by screening tests on returning passengers at Hong Kong airport.” Experts said.

  According to the researchers,  genetic sequencing of the virus showed that he was infected twice by different strains of COVID-19.

  They added that the findings suggest SARS-CoV-2 may persist in the global human population as is the case for other common-cold associated human coronaviruses, even if patients have acquired immunity via natural infection.

  Therefore, people with previous COVID-19 infection should comply with control measures like wearing face coverings and social distancing.

  One of the researchers, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Microbiology, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine, HKU, Kelvin Kai-Wang To,, said the case shows that patients recovered from COVID-19 can get reinfected.

  He affirmed that immunity against COVID-19 is not lifelong.

  “Reinfection is likely occurring elsewhere. Our case was asymptomatic and was diagnosed because of screening at the airport.”

  In a statement, the university said: “since the immunity can be short lasting after natural infection, vaccination should also be considered for those with one episode of infection.”

  The study has been accepted by medical journal Clinical Infectious Diseases, but the full research is yet to be published.

  However experts in the UK have said it is too early to say what the single case may mean on a global scale.

  Professor of microbial pathogenesis, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Brendan Wren, said, “With over three million cases of COVID-19 worldwide, the first reported case of a potential reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 needs to be taken into context.

  “It appears that the young and healthy adult has been reinfected with a slight SARS-CoV-2 variant from the initial infection three months previously.

  It is to be expected that the virus will naturally mutate over time. This is a very rare example of reinfection and it should not negate the global drive to develop the vaccines.”

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