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Expert take: Are Brenda and Brian now immune to Covid-19?

2 min read

The news of the recovery of three Covid-19 patients in Kenya has given hope to many and reduced anxiety in the country and beyond.

The survivors so far are Brenda Ivy Cherotich, Brian Orinda and a woman with Kenyan and British citizenship only identified as Lydia.

So, are these three survivors immune to coronavirus re-infection? Should they remain in quarantine? And is it safe for them to reunite with their families?

Research shows of the vast majority of people who catch Covid-19, more than 80 per cent make a complete recovery without any special interventions.

MILD DISEASE

Most of the infected people suffer a mild disease, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

So far, data from Worldometers, a global statistics tracker, show that more than 196,200 people have recovered from the infection that has brought the world to a standstill.

But are these people immune to new infections?

Dr Majid Twahir, the associate dean for clinical affairs and chief of staff at the Aga Khan University Hospital, says getting re-infected would be quite unusual unless a patient’s immune system is not functioning well.

UNLIKELY

“It is highly unlikely that you could test positive again for the virus,” he told the Nation on Thursday.

“Some parts of the world have even adopted strategies to have doctors who have recovered to be at the frontline.”

The specialist says there is no need for the patients to be quarantined or isolated any longer after testing negative at least twice.

Studies around the world show that recovering from Covid-19 means the patient develops immunity, at least for some time, just like is the case with other types of flu.

SURVIVOR RE-INFECTED

However, that theory came into question in February when a coronavirus survivor in her late 40s tested positive a second time after she had been discharged from a hospital in Osaka, Japan.

There is a similar case with one of the Diamond Princess passengers, and another in South Korea.

These were isolated cases.

But more worrying was research from Guangdong Province, China, reporting that 14 per cent of recovering patients had tested positive again.

However, experts say that it is too early to jump to conclusions since the cases have not been fully confirmed.

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stress that our immune response to this particular disease is not yet clearly understood.

“Patients with MERS-CoV infection are unlikely to be re-infected shortly after they recover, but it is not yet known whether similar immune protection will be observed for patients with Covid-19.”

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