‘It’s confusing’ but new virus case isn’t infectious

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IT’S a “confusing” case but Canberra’s newly confirmed COVID-19 case, a woman in her 20s, is not considered infectious, says ACT deputy chief health officer Dr Vanessa Johnston.

The woman, who acquired the disease from overseas, is the first active virus case since the ACT declared itself virus-free four days ago.

And, while the woman is considered an active virus case, Dr Johnston says she’s not considered infectious.

The woman, who wasn’t tested while symptomatic overseas, had no symptoms by the time she returned to Canberra in late March.

“She remained asymptomatic during her two week quarantine period at home,” Dr Johnston says.

But recently, Dr Johnston says she presented for testing after developing new cold-like symptoms.

“This returned a low positive result for COVID-19. Further testing has also returned a positive result for a common respiratory virus. We think this is the reason for her most recent illness,” she says.

“We’re confident there’s been no risk to the broader ACT community and that this person has not been infectious since she completed her quarantine period in early April.

“It’s possible, in some situations for a positive result to still be recorded, even in recovered patients some time after their initial infection. In these scenarios, so long after their infection, it’s likely that they present shedding of dead viral fragments. This means they’re not considered infectious.

“She actually no longer has any symptoms of her infection but we don’t clear people entirely and put them into the recovered box until we’re very happy to release them from isolation and we’ve got all testing results back.” 

But can she be asymptomatic and spread the virus? Well, Dr Johnston says while there are reported cases of people with coronavirus who are asymptomatic it doesn’t necessarily mean they are infectious.

“In fact, we don’t really understand just what sort of contribution they are having to the transmission of this virus in our community. So it’s not a recommendation to get tested if you don’t have any symptoms even if you’ve returned from an overseas country at this stage,” she says. 

“What we’re really trying to do is ramp up testing of people with symptoms because they’re most likely to transmit infection.” 


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