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SA woman beat the coronavirus – twice

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Cases of Covid-19 ‘reinfection’ reported in South Africa

Melina Charilaou. Picture: Facebook

A YOUNG, healthy Joburg attorney fought and beat the coronavirus twice in four months and has a new lease of life.

Melina Charilaou, 25, said her symptoms during her two “journeys” were extremely different.

And, as she had been assured she couldn’t get reinfected, the second time, Charilaou did not get tested immediately.

“On the 13th day of the quarantine, we asked about the possibility of infecting others because we were worried about our parents. At the time, we were always in contact with the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD), and everyone was so helpful. We were told that we couldn’t infect others and we couldn’t be infected either,” she said.

The health of her boyfriend took a turn for the worse just as they were to complete the 14-day quarantine period, and he had to be hospitalised.

“On March 13, I travelled to the UK and contracted the virus. I officially tested positive on  March 19, after my return to SA, and by such time I was at the peak of my symptoms. I could barely stand, had the most painful body pains, sore throat and nausea, except I had no cough,” she said.

Charilaou self-medicated and “had lots of rest” during her three-week recovery. “My boyfriend had it the worst, we had travelled together, and both tested positive.

“By day 23, he had full-on Covid. He had a high temperature, breathing problems, his pulse was 130 while sleeping. At this point, we enquired about reinfection, and we were told that there was no real evidence that one could not get reinfected,” explained Charilaou.

The pair fully recovered, continuing to take all the necessary precautions even though they thought they may now be immune.

Then, 113 days after first testing positive, Charilaou tested positive again.

“My symptoms were completely different this time. I had felt flu-like symptoms, experienced shortness of breath and coughing, something I did not have on my first rodeo.

“My throat started aching suddenly, and that feeling felt oh too familiar to the first. I cannot even say that this time had been better than the last as it was even scarier as it reached my chest,” she said, describing her second ordeal.

Professor Lynn Morris, the interim executive director of the NICD, said: “There are several similar reports from different countries. Each case should be investigated to establish whether it is a true case of reinfection or due to an unusually long period of viral shedding. It is, at this stage, unclear to what extent reinfections with Sars-CoV-2 can occur.”

The NICD, however, could not confirm if there were other patients who had been reinfected or what caused patients to be reinfected.

Charilaou said when she returned to work after her second illness, being treated differently and “kind of blamed” for being sick again took its toll on her.

“It’s hard enough having to deal with the virus than having to deal with people ostracising you. Suffering from the virus is a traumatic and mentally taxing situation.

“I wish people would understand that not taking the necessary precautions is not worth it. When you do the contact tracing list, you actually realise the seriousness and the magnitude of this thing. It is not a joke.”

The NICD is also monitoring a Durban patient who tested positive for the second time in three months.

Durban doctor Yuvan Maharaj told media that the patient had received her first positive result on March 9. She received a negative result two weeks later and had another positive result on July 14.

The patient returned to work and called him again on July 10 to say that some of her co-workers had now tested positive for Covid-19 and she was displaying symptoms once again.