NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Chief Medical Officer Dr Pearl McMillan revealed yesterday that there have been several instances of coronavirus cases recovering and becoming reinfected from the virus, though her claim was not widely supported by other healthcare professionals.
“We would have had reports of reinfections — well, persons who would have been infected previously being infected again,” McMillan said.
“I have Dr [Indira] Martin from the reference lab.
“I’m not sure if she is in a position to speak to what she is seeing in the lab setting, but we did have one or two situations where persons who would have been previously infected…and would have been reinfected.”
But Martin, who heads the Bahamas National Reference Laboratory, suggested those reinfections had not been determined scientifically.
“So, the thing about reinfection is that one of the criteria that we use to say that it is specifically a reinfection is that we have to perform genomic sequencing on that sample and, as you would be aware, we do not have that capacity in-country,” Martin said.
“That being said, what we have done is set up a proactive approach to studying reinfections going forward so those samples will be retained by the lab.
“It may not be our lab, but whichever lab would have recorded the reinfection, we’re asking them to retain that sample and then we would include it in our genomic surveillance in order to say that this is a true reinfection.”
Director of the National HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Programme Dr Nikkiah Forbes also indicated health officials could not confirm a reinfection at this time, echoing Martin.
“That is correct,” she said.
“To say without a shadow of a doubt that a patient is reinfected with COVID requires genomic sequencing and the reason for that is because there are many other respiratory viruses that can present with similar features of COVID-19.
“And so, there is actually a set criterion for how one would determine the patient has been reinfected.
“There has to be a certain period of time, at least three months that has passed by (since the patient first contracted the virus), and the strain has to be different, so we cannot confirm that at this time.”
The issue of COVID-19 reinfection arose last October after former Minister of Health Dr Duane Sands said there were at least two patients reinfected with the virus, noting the patients tested positive for the virus, recovered and were asymptomatic for an intervening period of time, then eventually tested positive again.
A month later, however, Forbes told Eyewitness News there had been no clinical evidence to support a reinfection of COVID-19 in The Bahamas.
Although rare, cases of reinfections have been reported in other jurisdictions.