Post-COVID Viral Transmission Rare, Even With Positive Test

photo of coronavirus cell

FRIDAY, April 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Isolated NBA players who recovered from COVID-19 but still tested positive for the virus didn’t infect others after leaving isolation, a new study finds.

That someone who has had COVID can infect others has been a persistent fear, but these findings from the professional basketball league suggest that many who recover can return to contact with others without spreading the virus, researchers say.

“COVID-19 reinfection is possible, especially now with new variants, and every positive test should be taken seriously,” said lead researcher Christina Mack of IQVIA, Real World Solutions in Durham, N.C.

This 2020 study, however, showed that sensitive tests such as RT-PCR may continue to yield a positive result after people have recovered from COVID. In the NBA campus setting, however, those folks were not infectious, Mack said.

To complete the 2019-20 season, the NBA set up a “bubble” in Orlando, Fla. — a closed campus governed by scientific protocols to guard against COVID-19.

More than 3,500 people lived on the campus and were subject to its protocols. All had daily RT-PCR tests. Some had recovered from a previous COVID infection.

“These recovered individuals were not sick and were not observed to be infectious to others, but were instead shedding virus particles at a low level left over from their previous infection,” Mack said.

“We observed that individuals could test positive up to 118 days after onset of infection, and that again, many of these individuals had tested negative on most of the days surrounding their positive test or tests,” she said.

Among participants, 1% had persistent virus, most were younger than 30 and male. Antibodies were found in 92% of these persistent cases and all were asymptomatic. These people were monitored, and there was no transmission of the virus to others, the researchers reported.

Dr. Robert Glatter, an emergency physician at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, wasn’t part of the study but reviewed the findings.

“The results of the study support the premise that asymptomatic individuals who have met [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] criteria for discontinuation of isolation, but who have persistently positive RT-PCR test results, do not appear to be infectious to others,” he said.

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