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A new study by Italian researchers finds that almost 17% of patients who fully recover from COVID-19 may still have the virus in follow-up screening.
Those who have ongoing respiratory symptoms, especially sore throat and stuffy nose or congestion (rhinitis), are more likely to have a positive follow-up test, suggesting that these symptoms shouldn't be discounted in patients who recover from COVID-19, the researchers said.
"Clinicians and researchers have focused on the acute phase of COVID-19, but continued monitoring after discharge for long-lasting effects is needed," said researcher Dr. Francesco Landi, from Agostino Gemelli University Policlinic and Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome.
For the study, Landi's team looked at 131 COVID-19 patients who stopped quarantining at least two weeks before a follow-up visit. Among these patients, nearly 17% tested positive at follow-up, the researchers found.
Although symptoms such as fatigue (51%), labored breathing (44%) and coughing (17%) were still present in some patients, there were no significant differences between people with a positive or negative follow-up test.
The report was published recently in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
"Our findings indicate that a noteworthy rate of recovered patients with COVID-19 could still be asymptomatic carriers of the virus," Landi said in a journal news release. "The main question for the containment of SARS-CoV-2 pandemic infection that still needs to be answered is whether persistent presence of virus fragments means the patient is still contagious.
"A positive swab test can reveal if patients are still shedding viral fragments, but it is not able to discern whether they are or aren't infectious," Landi added.
The researchers recommend that patients who continue to have symptoms related to COVID-19 should be cautious and avoid close contact with others, wear a face mask and possibly take additional tests.
For more on COVID-19, see the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
SOURCE: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, news release, Oct. 28, 2020
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