The patient with cardiac ailments was discharged on May 4 and tested positive again the next day.

First COVID-19 relapse in Karnataka 50-yr-old man tests positive after recoveryRepresentational image
news Coronavirus Tuesday, May 12, 2020 - 18:13

A COVID-19 patient has tested positive after recovering from the disease, leaving the Karnataka Health Department officials worried. This is the first such case in the state.

A 50-year-old Belagavi man, who is identified as patient 298 (P-298), had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 on April 16. He is suspected to have contracted the virus from a man based out of Raibag, who is believed to have been infected by someone who had attended the Tablighi Jamaat gathering. 

He was declared recovered on May 1 after two successive tests returned negative. The man was not showing any symptoms either and was discharged from the hospital on May 4 as he was being treated for cardiac ailments. However, his symptoms resurfaced the next day, on May 5. Following this, he was retested, with his samples returning positive.

He has been re-admitted to the Belagavi Institute of Medical Sciences for treatment.

While this is the first ever case of relapse in Karnataka for COVID-19, the phenomenon is not new. Countries like South Korea, China and Japan have seen hordes of cases of relapse since the onset of the pandemic.

As part of a brief issued on April 24, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said, “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection.” 

However, a month after South Korean health authorities in April first week raised concerns over a bunch of reinfections, it was later established that these cases were actually “false positives”. In other words, the tests were picking up lingering bits of the virus that were present in the individual but not necessarily infectious. 

On May 7,  AFP reported that it might be recovered patients test positive as their lungs are expelling dead cells quoting a  WHO official. A WHO spokesperson told AFP that the WHO is aware of some patients testing positive after they had already clinically recovered and based on recent data it would seem that as part of the recovery phase they are expelling “leftover material”. 

Dr Girdhar Gyani, founder of the Association of Healthcare Providers and a member of the National Task Force for COVID-19, said that although it is not a novel phenomenon, cases of relapse in India have been rare.

“Once a patient recovers, it does not mean that he is immune to the disease. He was not given any vaccine as well. Until a time comes when we have access to a vaccine, the person who has recovered has to follow the same safety protocols as anybody else,” he told TNM.

“We have to understand that we have to adapt to a new way of life by which the population of 60 years and above have to be protected and the rest have to maintain hand hygiene and social distancing,” he added.

However, Belagavi District Health Officer Dr SV Munal denied the case of reinfection. “Since the man is a high-risk patient and had other medical complications, he was not allowed to go home. After he was discharged from the Belgaum Institute of Medical Sciences, he was kept under observation at a Taluk level hospital, where his cardiac conditions exacerbated. So he was taken back to BIMS, where he tested positive again,” he said. 

“This is not a case of reinfection. Positivity and negativity will depend on the viral load. Sometimes, during recovery, the viral load goes down and it resurfaces. He is currently being closely monitored as earlier as he is a high-risk patient due to his comorbidities.”

According to the new discharge protocol, a patient with severe symptoms will be discharged after clinical recovery and only after he/she tests negative once

Read: Explained: India’s new discharge policy for hospitalised COVID-19 patients

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