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Covid-19: Can survivors get re-infected?

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SULEMANI—I was advised that there is a risk

In the face of Covid-19 pandemic, which has seen Malawians wondering whether those who tested positive can be re-infected, experts have warned that it is possible.

Other reports however suggest survivors’ likelihood of developing immunity.

In an interview with Malawi News Friday, Deputy Director of Preventive Health Service responsible for immunisation in the Ministry of Health, Mike Chisema, said re-infection is possible because it works as a percentage or a probability so there is still of probability that the survivors can be re-infected.

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“It is not just about the re-infection, it is about post factors, having other problems that can predispose us to the disease. There is so much that can make someone have a re-infection, things we have no control over.

“For instance, there is a new variant that we are talking about so a different thing can come altogether, that is why we say re-infection is possible,” he said.

Epidemiologist Titus Divala concurred with Chisema, saying while the survivors may present with some immunity, the duration of the protection is not unlimited.

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“Yes, they are immune but the duration of the protection is not unlimited. We have seen quite a number of people who got it the last wave getting it again this time,” he said.

In as far as administering of a vaccine is concerned, Chisema said the basics of the vaccine is that it offers a certain percentage of protective effectiveness towards severe symptoms of the virus.

“I am sure you know the basics around the vaccine. The basics are that it has got 9-100 percent protective effect for severe Covid-19 conditions what it means is they cannot be severely sick even if they had the infection. Even with 100% chance that the symptoms progress to become severe, the protective effect is higher. Then there is also protective effect of 50% for mild and moderate cases, meaning you can have 50% chance that you can have mild or moderate symptoms,” he said.

Daudi Sulemani and Allan Ngumuya, who both suffered the virus sometime last year, said they were made aware of a re-infection and as such, both have been observing the precautionary measures just like everyone else.

“I was advised that there is a risk of re-infection and I had to observe the precautions same as anyone else. The risk of re-infection is there and I personally observe the precautions,” Sulemani said.

Ngumuya advised all survivors not to relax, further arguing that is the correct way to go about it.

“I was not directly told of re-infection but I just assumed that I can possibly get it again so I kept myself safe. That is the only way to go about it, everyone should know that they can get this pandemic,” he said.

A study by Public Health England (PHE) published on January 14, 2021 found that past coronavirus (Covid-19) infection provides some immunity for at least 5 months, but people may still carry and transmit the virus.

The study disclosed that people infected with Covid-19 in the past are likely to be protected against re-infection for several months, although experts cautioned those with immunity may still be able carry the virus in their nose and throat and therefore have a risk of transmitting to others.

“PHE has been regularly testing tens of thousands of health care workers across the UK since June for new COVID-19 infections as well as the presence of antibodies, which suggest people have been infected before.

“PHE scientists working on the study have concluded naturally acquired immunity as a result of past infections provide 83% protection against reinfection, compared to people who have not had the disease before. This appears to last at least for 5 months from first becoming sick,” reads part of the research findings.

Malawi registered its first case of Covid-19 under the first wave in April last year. The number of cases and deaths were not as hard hitting as we have seen with the second wave, which hit the hardest in January.

Recently, medical experts said there were positive indicators that the coronavirus pandemic was easing down in the days between February 1 and February 10 this year, but warned that the strange nature of the virus means stakeholders are fighting against a moving target.

For example, in terms of cases of death, the country registered 10 deaths on the first day of the month, followed by 14, 35, 18, 20, 38, 19, 18 in subsequent days up to February 8.

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