SEOUL -- The head of South Korea's state anti-epidemic center was cautious about COVID-19 re-infection, saying an elaborate clinical and epidemiological investigation has yet to be completed to see if a patient can be re-infected after being cured once. If re-infection confirmed to be true, it would affect the development of vaccines.
The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency (KDCA) has investigated the suspected case of re-infection involving an unidentified woman in her 20s who tested positive for a novel coronavirus again in April, one month after she was recovered from COVID-19 infection. The case was made public last week.
"It's hard to give a definitive answer that this is an example of re-infection," KDCA head Jeong Eun-kyeong told a regular press briefing, calling for detailed clinical or epidemiological information to give a definite answer. She raised a theory that antibodies may not have been sufficiently formed. Jeong's office regards re-infection as a grave issue that can affect the development of long-lasting vaccines.
Suspected cases have been reported in Hong Kong, Belgium and the United States, Jeong said, adding that if re-infection is true, it means that the virus can show a common cold-like immune pattern that can infect people repeatedly because the immune system does not last a lifetime.
Along with asymptomatic infections and mutations, South Korean health officials have tried to find out how the virus can be re-activated. As of September 20, KDCA data showed that the virus was found to be activated again from 705 people who were once hospitalized for COVID-19 infections.
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