A hospital in the Brazilian city of Sao Paulo announced Tuesday it is investigating seven possible cases of reinfection of the Chinese coronavirus.
According to the Hospital de las Clínicas, seven patients are suspected of testing positive for the virus a second time and are undergoing further clinical examinations. The patients reportedly have shown relevant symptoms and tested positive in a diagnostic test in two separate periods.
“All the cases are still under investigation,” the clinic said in a statement.
Brazilian hospital authorities are currently examining several hypotheses in explaining the reinfection. The first theory is that it is a different virus that has confused researchers because of the presence of “inactive fragments” of the coronavirus still in their systems.
Another explanation is that the positive test could be a result of the reactivation of the coronavirus pathogen after a period of inactivity in the body. The other theory is that it is simply a second infection caused by the same virus.
The investigations come less than a month after a study from the same city suggested it is possible to contract the virus multiple times. The study, which was carried out at the University of Sāo Paulo, cited the case of a nursing technician whose symptoms returned, concluding that her case “presents strong evidence not only for reinfection, [but also] a recurrence of symptoms.”
On Monday, Hong Kong authorities confirmed the first documented case of reinfection of a 33-year-old man who was infected again following a trip to Spain and four months after testing positive for the first time. Both the Netherlands and Belgium on Tuesday reported the first two cases of coronavirus reinfection in Europe.
Brazil, which has an estimated population of around 210 million people, registered its first case of coronavirus on February 26 in Sao Paulo, which was also the first contagion reported in Latin America. As of Wednesday, the country has recorded close to 3.7 million cases and 116,964 deaths, the second-highest figure worldwide.
This works out at a mortality rate of around 556 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants, placing it well below other countries such as Peru, Belgium, and the United Kingdom. Among those infected was the country’s President Jair Bolsonaro, who repeatedly expressed his skepticism about lockdown measures and the virus’s severity. He has since made a full recovery.
Brazil currently has the second-highest official tally of coronavirus cases in the world, second to the United States, and standing at 3.7 million cases and 117,665 deaths at press time. These numbers do not reflect, however, the high likelihood of data from rogue states like China, Russia, and North Korea being incomplete and inaccurate. A study by the American Enterprise Institute estimated that China’s official coronavirus case count is likely millions of cases lower than the actual number of affected people.