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VERIFY: A person can test positive twice for coronavirus

The WHO confirmed reports that people are testing positive after their symptoms are gone, but they're not sure if it's due to testing errors or the virus.

After starting to see news headlines being shared about people recovering from the coronavirus and still testing positive, several viewers asked VERIFY if a person is able to test positive again for COVID-19.

Breaking down this claim, it’s important to note that testing positive a second time does not inherently mean the person gets sick a second time.

It came from stories like Reuters' on a woman in Japan who was reinfected with the coronavirus, testing positive after recovering from an earlier infection, according to the local government.

THE QUESTION

Can someone test positive again for COVID-19 after already getting over the symptoms?

THE ANSWER

Yes, per the World Health Organization, a person can test positive after they “clinically recover.”

It's unclear if this is evidence that the virus can actually come back into people's systems, or if there's some sort of error in testing.

WHAT WE FOUND

“We are aware that some patients are PCR positive after they clinically recover,” a WHO spokesperson wrote to VERIFY. “But we need systematic collection of samples from recovered patients to better understand how long they shed live virus.” 

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The WHO is currently working with their clinical experts to get more information on those individual cases. 

"It is important to make sure that when samples are collected for testing on suspected patients, procedures are followed properly," the official said.

According to their clinical management guidelines, a recovered patient can be discharged from the hospital after two consecutive negative results at least 24 hours apart. 

Credit: AP
A helper transports blood tests during a blood drive of the German Red Cross DRK because the blood reserves of the hospitals are running out in the stadium in Erfurt, central Germany, Wednesday, March 18, 2020. The fear of the coronavirus also has an effect on the willingness to donate blood in many German states. According to the DRK, the number of blood donors has decreased over the past few days during the corona crises. For most people, the new coronavirus causes only mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia. (AP Photo/Jens Meyer)

The official also added that, "Based on the current studies available, there is a period of approximately two weeks between the onset of symptoms and clinical recovery of patients with a mild COVID-19 disease."

Because the coronavirus is a new disease, the WHO is still gathering a systematic collection of samples and epidemiological data from recovered patients to better understand the transmission of the virus after testing positive on a PCR test. 

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