Publisher's note: This informational nugget was sent to me by Ben Shapiro, who represents the Daily Wire, and since this is one of the most topical news events, it should be published on BCN.
The author of this post is Eric Quintanar.
After South Korean health experts discovered that some former coronavirus patients were testing positive again after recovering from the disease, officials thought that the patients could be relapsing - or, the even less likely but far worse option - could be contracting the virus again.
But the new suspected culprit offers a far more reassuring possibility: The coronavirus tests may have been detecting remnants of the virus in recovered patients.
According to Yonhap News Agency
, South Korean health officials now suspect that the 277 people who have recovered from the coronavirus, but later tested positive, were only testing positive because they still had fragments of the virus, referring to these fragments as "dead."
"RNA fragments still can exist in a cell even if the virus is inactivated,"
said the clinical committee for emerging disease control in a statement. "It is more likely that those who tested positive again picked up virus RNA that has already been inactivated."
The news agency, which is funded by the South Korean government, says the central clinical committee for emerging diseases has not found evidence of active virus inside of patients who have tested positive again.
Oh Myoung-Don, the head of the committee, says the possibility of flare-ups in former patients can be dismissed because the virus "does not invade inside of the cell nucleus and combine with a patient's DNA."
Although the development is not definitive - with the government having suggested
in mid-April that the issue would require at least a month of investigation - the announcement seems to go along with the evidence suggesting that the coronavirus does not undergo significant mutations quickly.
"At this point, the mutation rate of the virus would suggest that the vaccine developed for SARS-CoV-2 would be a single vaccine, rather than a new vaccine every year like the flu vaccine,"
Peter Thielen, a researcher at Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory, told The Washington Post
and other media outlets previouly reported on the peculiar increase of former South Korean coronavirus patients who were testing positive again. At the time, prevailing theories suggested the new positive cases were either from patient relapse, "inconsistent tests," or the far less likely "re-infection."
While the Centers for Disease Control in South Korea believed the most likely cause was either relapse or reactivation, Kwon Jun-wook, deputy director of the South Korean CDC, also floated the possibility that the tests were so sensitive that they were detecting small levels of virus that weren't harmful, reports the news agency.
According to The Wall Street Journal
, South Korea has announced new guidelines in preparation to re-open the country. While the guidelines are voluntary, The Journal writes that they cover facets of everyday life in extreme detail:
- When meeting in an office, people will wear masks. At meals, diners will sit next to each other or in a zigzag pattern, not directly across. Hotel rooms will be ventilated for 15 minutes after travelers check out. Visitors at zoos and aquariums must stand 6 feet apart. Shouting and hugging will be discouraged at sporting events. So will high-fives....
- Library users are encouraged to keep their voices down so droplets of spit don't travel so far. Supermarket workers are also advised not to shout, and worshipers are discouraged from singing when standing next to fellow churchgoers.