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Experts document case of reinfection of SARS-COV-2 in Pakistan

Abbottabad: After the tremendous efforts of the government and public came to fruition in getting the first wave of COVID-19 under control, the people of Pakistan threw caution in the wind and start going about their lives as they did in the pre-COVID era. Infectious disease experts warned about the recurrent infection to SARS-CoV-2 and urged the public to wear face masks and follow Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Now, a case report published by Dr Zia-ul-Haq and his team, in the December 2020 edition of the Journal of Ayub Medical College, has presented the first documented case of reinfection of SARS-CoV-2 in the second wave of COVID-19 in Pakistan. The article describes a 41-year-old health care worker with no known immune deficiencies, who was initially infected and tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on 6th June 2020. He tested negative for the virus, and positive for its antibodies following recovery after fifteen days. After 133 days of recovery, the patient again became symptomatic. On 1st November 2020, the patient tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 for a second time.

The case report confirms that, although the patient had developed anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies after the first infection, he still got reinfected. This is an eye-opener for the public, who until now, considered themselves immune to reinfection by the virus. The leading KPK pulmonologists, Head of Pulmonology Department, Prof. Dr Zafar Iqbal and Asst. Prof. Dr Anila Basit from LRH Peshawar, had this to say, “Compared to what we saw in the first wave, it seems the virus has now mutated. Patients are presenting with prolonged symptoms, persistent low oxygen saturation, atypical chest X-ray findings and are still diagnosed positive for SARS-CoV-2. On the contrary, sometimes clinically and radiologically, all features point towards a case of COVID-19, but their PCR result is repeatedly negative. Before the pandemic, patients dying of H1N1 had similar clinical and radiological findings. Now, due to pandemic, the H1N1 swab test is not done or ignored which is why sometimes we consider adding ostelmevir in management.” 

The experts confirm current precautions with the following message for the public, “ the only way to stay safe now, is to carefully follow all SOPs, wear facemasks at all times, frequently wash and sanitize your hands and avoid social gatherings at all costs.”

-by Dr Sarmad Syed

November 18, 2020

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