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S. Korea thoroughly analyzing relapse virus cases: KCDC

All News 16:22 April 16, 2020

SEOUL, April 16 (Yonhap) -- South Korean health authorities said Thursday they are thoroughly analyzing relapse cases of the novel coronavirus following a steady rise of such cases amid a slowdown in new infections.

The number of people who retested positive for COVID-19 after making full recoveries has reached 141 as of Thursday, up eight from a day earlier, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).

South Korea has reported four consecutive days of new cases under 30, but such relapse cases have raised concerns with health officials.

Military health workers clad in protective suits prepare to work at a middle school in Daegu on April 16, 2020. (Yonhap)

"In the case of SARS and MERS, we did not see people testing positive again after making full recoveries," said KCDC Deputy Director Kwon Jun-wook, referring to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome that hit South Korea in recent years. "This novel coronavirus appears to be very evil and shrewd."

Of the 141 patients who retested positive for COVID-19, half of them were showing symptoms again, according to Kwon. Patients in their 20s accounted for 24.1 percent, or 34 cases, of the total relapse cases identified here.

Kwon said health authorities are looking into various possibilities, from reactivation of the virus to testing errors, for the cause of relapse cases.

Some experts are leaning toward a theory suggesting non-contagious, less risky virus particles getting detected through sensible virus tests, according to Kwon.

He added that it will take about 10 days or two weeks for health authorities to analyze relapsed cases of COVID-19, since they need to check various information, including production of antibodies, in those cases.

Meanwhile, Kwon said health authorities are planning to conduct nationwide inspections of people at high risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, saying there could be "quiet spread" of the virus in local communities with asymptomatic patients.

kdon@yna.co.kr
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