MOH Warns Recovered People May Not Be Immune To Covid-19

The Health DG also said there were conflicting reports on whether asymptomatic people were contagious.

KUALA LUMPUR, April 21 — The Ministry of Health (MOH) today cautioned those who recovered from Covid-19 that they could be reinfected with the disease.

Health director-general Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah said research so far has not shown that people who develop antibodies to Covid-19 can prevent them from reinfection, even though antibodies for other diseases lend immunity to those illnesses.

“We need to learn about the new virus. Today, we realise that even though you have response of antibody, in other diseases, you get protection; here, you don’t have protection yet,” he told a press conference.

He said before discharging coronavirus patients, MOH counsels them on how to avoid infection.

Five cases in Malaysia so far have tested positive for Covid-19 after getting discharged from hospital, but these cases, said Dr Noor Hisham, were “weak positive”, which means that they were in the process of residual viral shedding but were not infectious.

A total of 3,349 Covid-19 patients in Malaysia have recovered and been discharged from hospital, about 61 per cent of the total 5,482 cases in the country.

The Health DG also said there were conflicting reports on whether asymptomatic people, or those who do not display symptoms, could transmit the coronavirus.

“What’s more important, we do know when they have symptoms, that’s the time infection can occur, they can transmit infection to another, like sneezing and coughing. The virus load at that point of time would be the highest.

“Asymptomatic, perhaps they may have the virus, but whether they can transmit the infection to others is still to be studied and proven,” said Dr Noor Hisham.

According to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) April 2 Covid-19 situation report, some pre-symptomatic people (those who do not yet show symptoms after getting infected) can be contagious. A person can take up to 14 days to display symptoms after getting exposed to the virus, though the average is five to six days. Pre-symptomatic transmission still requires the virus to be spread via infectious droplets or through touching contaminated surfaces.

As for asymptomatic transmission from a person with Covid-19 who does not develop symptoms, WHO highlighted few reports of laboratory-confirmed cases who were truly asymptomatic, but said to date, there has been no documented asymptomatic transmission.

“This does not exclude the possibility that it may occur. Asymptomatic cases have been reported as part of contact tracing efforts in some countries,” said WHO.

As for the government’s plan to send home university students who have been staying on campus for about a month, Dr Noor Hisham said the government would devise a strategy for an estimated 100,000 students to return to their hometowns to avoid a rush.

“They’ve been there for four weeks. There’s no cluster among university students. We can screen them. They can go back home.”

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