A Canadian woman has tested positive for COVID-19 eight times in 50 days, according to local reports.
Stock image: Artist’s illustration of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
Tracy Schofield from Cambridge, Ontario, said she first began experiencing symptoms—including a fever, chills and difficulty breathing—on March 30. The next day she got tested for COVID-19 and was found to be positive, CTV News reported. For the next two weeks, she self-isolated at her home, which she shares with her 17-year-old son.
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During this period—in which she did not leave her room—Schofield said her temperature reached 40.1 degrees Celsius (104.1 degrees Fahrenheit) and she lost her sense of taste and smell.
After more than 50 days since testing positive, Schofield said most of her symptoms are gone, but some still seem to be lingering. “I still to this day have shortness of breath,” she told CTV. “COVID-19 has taken a lot out of me, and it continues every day.”
The first seven tests Schofield took came back positive. However, to her relief, the eighth was a negative. “I cried because I was so happy,” Schofield said.
But her hopes were dashed soon after as her ninth test came back positive. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines, COVID-19 patients have to receive two consecutive negative results at least 24 hours apart before they are considered to be recovered.
Schofield is not the only person to have reportedly tested positive for COVID-19 over a long period of time. A 35-year-old Australian filmmaker tested positive for the virus three times over the course of two months, Daily Mail Australia reported. In India, a 62-year-old woman tested positive for the disease 20 times during the course of a 48-day stay in hospital. She was discharged after finally testing negative, the Mumbai Mirror reported.
According to Brian Dixon, a professor of immunology at the University of Waterloo, Canada, tests can sometimes produce false negatives. “You’re only giving a small sample from your body,” he told CTV. “So it may have been that they just missed it on that case. That’s why they do it twice. They want to be sure that they caught the right sample and you are negative.”
Schofield says she has no underlying health conditions but fears that she may suffer long-term complications from the disease.
“I just want someone to be able to tell me something,” she said. “Give me an answer. Am I going to have it forever?”
According to a WHO analysis of data from the outbreak in China, the average time from the onset of symptoms to clinical recovery for mild cases is approximately two weeks, and three to six weeks for patients with severe or critical disease.
However, because this is a new virus and there is a lack of long-term data, there is still much that scientists do not know about COVID-19. Canada has recorded more than 79,100 confirmed COVID-19 cases and over 5,900 deaths, according to government data.
According to Dixon, infected people will all experience the disease differently, and some may show signs of infections for far longer than others. “It’s hard to say what’s normal,” he said. “We all have a particular immune system that’s individual.”
Schofield, who is now scheduled to take a tenth test, said she has been contacted by others who are also experiencing relatively long-lasting issues with the disease. “It’s comforting to know that they’re out there and they’ve contacted me,” she said. “I’m hoping just telling my story is helping them too, because they know they’re not alone either.”
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