Some people can test positive for several weeks after recovery without being infectious
NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Dr. Nikkiah Forbes, Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme explained yesterday that while some positive COVID-19 cases could still be positive weeks after their first symptoms, they are likely not infectious and would be classified as clinically recovered.
In an interview with Eyewitness News, Forbes said in recent months there has been a lot of misunderstanding regarding the issue, where if someone contracts the virus, once certain conditions are met, they can be classified as recovered and be released from isolation.
She noted that while early information on recovery from the virus required retesting of patients until they get two negative tests back before being cleared into the public, scientific information now show that that is no longer necessary.
“We know based from over 33 million people with COVID in the world, when people will be shedding viable virus and on average how long it takes, so we can classify people as no longer infections based upon that information,” Forbes said.
“This is very important and it’s a good thing. We also know more about if you retest people, there are some people who test positive for weeks – that is weeks at a time, more than a month.
“But our understanding is mostly that that is non-virus and so it isn’t based on good scientific understanding that we should be doing the testing strategy anymore to return people to work and to get them out of isolation.”
There are two ways a person infected with COVID-19 can be declared recovered: laboratory-based, with a negative RT-PCR test; and an absence of clinical signs and symptoms of COVID-19.
The World Health Organization’s updated its criteria in May, utilized to confirm recovery of a person with COVID-19 and outline discharge from isolation.
The latest recommendations by WHO advises that patients whose symptoms have resolved may still test positive for COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) by RT-PCR test for many weeks.
Forbes noted that when an individual is infected with COVID-19 they are only infectious in the days before they start getting symptoms, or early in the days when they first get the symptoms.
“There is a definition for when people can get recovered based on how sick they are,” she explained.
“If they have mild to moderate symptoms, not hospitalized, or their immune system is good and normal, they are better and over COVID-19 and not able to transmit it 10 days from their first symptom and if there has been three or more days from their last major symptom, cough shortness of breath, fever, severe muscle pain
“…We know that in those persons that they will not be shedding COVID-19 virus after 10 days, and they can be released or classified as recovered and go back to work.”
She noted however that the definition will differ for someone who is sicker or has had severe illness or critical illness, needed oxygen, needed to be hospitalized and if their immune system was weaker.
“The time from the first symptom is actually 20 days and they would have had to have no major symptoms for three days and no fever and they could be determined clinically recovered,” Forbes added.
“After that period, they won’t be shedding infectious virus anymore.”
The infectious disease expert insisted that while people may have gotten used to retesting strategy, they have to amend their an d may have a hard time amending to new information but it has to be changed.