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La Crosse County health officials reported Tuesday that a resident has been reinfected with COVID-19, although scientists studying the virus have not yet reported a case that was confirmed to be a reinfection and not a extinction of a previous infection.

According to a Facebook post from the La Crosse County health department, the person tested positive for COVID-19 more than three months ago.

The July 22 disease control and prevention centers said there were no confirmed cases of COVID-19 reinfection, but scientists are continuing to investigate the possibility.

The La Crosse County health department was not immediately available for comment Tuesday evening, but health officials answered questions Tuesday prior to the department’s Facebook page.

In response to a Facebook comment asking if the infection could be “a long case,” the health department said it was considering the case a reinfection and cited CDC guidelines: “If a positive test occurs more than 3 months after the person “the onset of symptoms, doctors and public health authorities should consider the possibility of reinfection.”

The patient’s symptom “was not the same the second time,” the health department said in response to another question, though health officials did not share what those symptoms are.

In a July 22 story in The New York Times, scientists said it would be very rare for someone to be re-infected with COVID-19, but not impossible.

And people who have been infected with coronavirus “appear to be susceptible again about 90 days after the onset of the infection,” according to the CDC.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that antibodies produced by the immune system to fight COVID-19 can only last a few months in people with mild cases. But once infected, the immune system remembers how fresh antibodies can be made if necessary, according to a report by The Associated Press.

There is also a growing recognition among scientists and doctors that the virus may stay in suspension for months and reappear in some patients.

It is difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a person has been reinfected with COVID-19, said Dr. Nasia Safdar, who studies infectious diseases at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and is medical director of infection control at UW. Health.

Safdar has assured that certain conditions must be met to demonstrate reinfection. A person must first recover from the original infection and then be infected with a different strain of the virus than he or she had before or which can be “cultured,” that is, cultured in a laboratory and shown to be alive, viable. virus “and not just a persistent presence” of the original COVID-19 infection.

Safdar said most labs are not equipped to grow COVID-19 because it is dangerous.

“In that case, the best thing you can do is have some kind of criteria that, if a certain amount of time has passed and someone still comes to a (positive test), it might be able to be re-infected.”

But that doesn’t necessarily prove a reinfection, he said scientists have learned that people are still positive for the coronavirus “several weeks after the first infection.”

Cases that have been reported as “reinfections” could first be a person’s first encounter with the virus, after a person’s initial test was false.

La Crosse is not the only county in the United States to report a reinfection. On Tuesday, Todd County, Kentucky, reported that a single patient was counted as a reinfection because more than 90 days had passed between positive tests.

This Tuesday, there were 844 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in La Crosse County. Four people are hospitalized and one person has died.

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Contact Natalie Brophy at (715) 216-5452 or nbrophy@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter @brophy_natalie.

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