N.S. investigating whether latest COVID-19 case involving home-care nurse is a reinfection
HALIFAX -- Nova Scotia’s latest case of COVID-19 is a home-care nurse who already tested positive several months ago and was considered recovered.
The case, located in the Nova Scotia Health Authority’s central zone, was first reported Monday. The provincial government said the case was under investigation by public health.
Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Robert Strang provided more details during a news conference in Halifax Wednesday afternoon.
He said the person first tested positive for COVID-19 in early May. The case was considered resolved as they had passed the 14-day period and was no longer showing symptoms.
However, the same person recently tested positive again. Health officials aren’t certain whether it’s a case of reinfection or if they are still detecting residual virus.
“The individual’s test results have been inconclusive and we are working with our local lab and the national lab to determine whether this is a true case of reinfection or not,” said Strang.
“That’s why this test required much more investigation from public health in collaboration with our laboratory colleagues.”
In the meantime, Strang said they are assuming the case is a new positive case of COVID-19.
"We can’t wait to get the final question or answer from the lab, whether we ever get that or not,” he said. “We have to make decisions … and we’re always erring on the side of caution.”
If it is a case of reinfection, Strang said they aren’t certain how or where the person was exposed to COVID-19.
“It’s part of what makes this a complex issue to work through,” he said. “The question we’re grappling with, is this really a new case, and the science behind that. But also then, where did they get infected, or is it somehow … are we still detecting residual virus in this individual?
Strang did confirm the case is not connected to the Northwood long-term care home in Halifax, where 53 residents died from COVID-19.
Strang said the person wore full personal protective equipment and followed the appropriate infection controls while working as a home-care nurse.
Public health has been following up with household and close social contacts and working with the home-care agency to determine each client’s risk of exposure.
“Appropriate actions will be taken for each client based on these individual assessments,” said Strang.
'COMPLEX, PUZZLING CASE'
Meanwhile, Strang said it’s also important to investigate the case because it could have implications for our understanding of COVID-19 and immunity.
“It’s a complex puzzling case,” he said. “The implications of reinfection mean that we are raising or making it more likely that we can’t count on a one-time infection, producing lifelong immunity.”
Strang said there is still a lot to learn about COVID-19 and people shouldn’t assume they have immunity if they have already been infected.
He stressed that anyone who has previously tested positive for COVID-19 should continue to follow all public health measures, even if they have already self-isolated and are no longer showing symptoms.
“Previous infection seemingly does not give a guarantee of having immunity beyond our cut-off point, which is about three months,” he said. “That’s actually not a surprise to us. Most respiratory viruses act like this.”
NO NEW CASES OF COVID-19
Nova Scotia reported no new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday. There are still three active cases in the province.
Nova Scotia has gone two days without reporting a new case of the novel coronavirus.
The Nova Scotia Health Authority labs completed 801 Nova Scotia tests on Tuesday.
To date, Nova Scotia has 81,092 negative test results.
There are 1,086 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in Nova Scotia, but 1,018 cases are considered resolved, and 65 people have died, leaving three active cases in the province.
No one is currently in hospital as a result of COVID-19.
The province's confirmed cases range in age from under 10 to over 90.
Sixty-one per cent of cases are female and 39 per cent are male.
There are cases confirmed across the province, but most have been identified in the central zone, which contains the Halifax Regional Municipality.
The provincial government says cumulative cases by zone may change as data is updated in Panorama, the province’s electronic information system.
The numbers reflect where a person lives, and not where their sample was collected.
- western zone: 55 cases
- central zone: 910 cases
- northern zone: 67 cases
- eastern zone: 54 cases
UPDATED LIST OF SYMPTOMS
Last week, the province reduced the number of COVID-19 symptoms for which health officials are screening.
The provincial government said the updated list of symptoms reflects the current epidemiology in Nova Scotia.
Anyone who experiences a new or worsening fever or cough, or two or more of the following new or worsening symptoms is encouraged to take an online test to determine if they should call 811 for further assessment:
- sore throat
- shortness of breath
- runny nose
Anyone who tests positive for COVID-19 is required to self-isolate at home, away from the public, for 14 days.
Anyone who travels to Nova Scotia from outside the Atlantic region is also required to self-isolate for 14 days and must fill out a self-declaration form before coming to the province.
Residents of New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Newfoundland and Labrador are not required to self-isolate when travelling to Nova Scotia, but they must be prepared to provide proof of their place of residency at provincial borders.
Visitors from outside the Atlantic region who have already self-isolated in another Atlantic province for 14 days may travel to Nova Scotia without having to self-isolate again.
The provincial state of emergency, which was first declared on March 22, has been extended to Sept. 20.