Not a hopeful sign: 13 sailors test positive again after recovering from COVID-19

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There is an ongoing disagreement among epidemiologists as to whether someone who has been infected with COVID-19 and has developed antibodies in recovering from the disease has partial or total immunity to reinfection. This is the basis for those who argue “just infect everybody and develop herd immunity.” Antibody immunity is critical to the research into developing antibiotic treatments and perhaps a vaccine to the disease.

But there continue to be anecdotal reports from doctors that patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and tested negative afterwards later suffered a reinfection, which calls into question any immunity from antibodies to the disease.

Politico reports, 13 USS Theodore Roosevelt sailors test positive after recovering from Covid-19:

Thirteen sailors aboard the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt have tested positive again for Covid-19 after recovering from the disease and returning to the ship, which has been stranded in Guam since late March after an outbreak of the virus, according to two U.S. defense officials.

The Roosevelt’s crew began returning to the ship in late April after spending a month either in quarantine or isolation in Guam. But sailors in early May began showing symptoms of the virus, such as a cough and fever, despite testing negative twice.

Some of the sailors who returned to the ship showed expanded symptoms, including body aches and headaches, according to one official. This has slowed the move back onto the ship, as all sailors who return must have been symptom-free for three days and have tested negative twice, as well as completed their isolation period.

CNN first reported on Thursday that five sailors had tested positive after reboarding the ship, so the new number means the positive cases have more than doubled. The 13 Covid-positive sailors have been removed from the ship and are back in isolation on U.S. Naval Base Guam, according to the officials.

“This week, a small number of TR Sailors who previously tested COVID positive and met rigorous recovery criteria have retested positive,” said Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Myers Vasquez. “These protocols resulted in a small number of close contacts who were also removed from the ship, quarantined and tested.

“The ship remains on the road to recovery and will prepare to get back underway once a critical mass of crew with the required expertise is onboard,” said Vasquez.

At the end of April, when the Navy stopped releasing daily totals, the number of active cases hit 1,102. As of Thursday, more than 2,900 sailors had moved aboard the Roosevelt. More than a quarter of all sailors who have tested positive for Covid-19 have now recovered, according to the Navy.

In addition to the outbreak, the Roosevelt now has a new medical problem. One sailor has been diagnosed with tuberculosis and has been removed from the ship, Vasquez said.

Tuberculosis, or TB, is a bacterial infection that affects the lungs and carries symptoms similar to Covid-19 such as coughing, fever and difficulty breathing. TB kills 1.5 million people per year worldwide — more than any other infectious disease.

“In the course of the ship’s rigorous infection surveillance, a single active case of TB was identified and diagnosed,” said Vasquez. “The individual has been removed from the ship, isolated, and will remain under the direct care of the naval health system until cleared by doctors.”

The Navy conducted a “thorough contact investigation,” medically evaluating and clearing several individuals for the disease. No other active cases are pending, he said.

Vasquez said the Roosevelt’s return to sea would be “conditions-based.”

This is not a hopeful sign for medical researchers. If antibodies do not provide immunity to reinfection from the disease, how does one go about getting control of this deadly disease? It would appear that COVID-19 may be with us for a long time.

We’re going to need a better plan than simply hoping for a miracle cure that makes it go away.




1 COMMENT

  1. Some good news: Bloomberg reports that South Korea has investigated its cases of patients appearing to have been reinfected and have concluded that it was the result of faulty testing. Time for the U.S. Navy to investigate and decide if its sailors are also due to faulty testing. “Covid Patients Testing Positive After Recovery Aren’t Infectious, Study Shows”, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2020-05-19/covid-patients-testing-positive-after-recovery-aren-t-infectious

    Scientists from the Korean Centers for Disease Control and Prevention studied 285 Covid-19 survivors who had tested positive for the coronavirus after their illness had apparently resolved, as indicated by a previous negative test result. The so-called re-positive patients weren’t found to have spread any lingering infection, and virus samples collected from them couldn’t be grown in culture, indicating the patients were shedding non-infectious or dead virus particles.

    The findings, reported late Monday, are a positive sign for regions looking to open up as more patients recover from the pandemic that has sickened at least 4.8 million people. The emerging evidence from South Korea suggests those who have recovered from Covid-19 present no risk of spreading the coronavirus when physical distancing measures are relaxed.

    The results mean health authorities in South Korea will no longer consider people infectious after recovering from the illness.

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