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A 25-year-old man is the primary within the US to contract coronavirus twice, the second an infection being "extra extreme".

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Dr. Sonia Macieiewski (R) and Dr. Nita Patel, director of antibody discovery and vaccine development, are examining a sample of a respiratory virus, one of the labs for which a vaccine is being developed, on March 20, 2020 at the Novavax labs in Rockville, Maryland, one of the labs for which a vaccine was developed for the coronavirus COVID-19.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds | AFP | Getty Images

A 25-year-old man in the US state of Nevada has contracted the coronavirus twice, a study in the Lancet Infectious Diseases Journal found. The patient became seriously ill after the second infection.

It is the first confirmed case of a US patient being re-infected with Covid-19 and the fifth known case worldwide.

The Washoe County resident, who had no known immune disease or a history of significant underlying disease, had to test positive for Covid-19 in the hospital for the second time.

He has now recovered, although the case raises more questions about the prospect of developing protective immunity to the coronavirus.

To date, more than 37.8 million people worldwide have become infected with Covid-19, with 1.08 million deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The head of emergencies at WHO said earlier this month that according to his "best estimates", around 1 in 10 people worldwide could be infected with the coronavirus, well above the number of confirmed cases.

What happened?

March 25th The peer-reviewed medical journal said in a study that a 25-year-old man in Nevada's second largest county had a wave of symptoms associated with a viral infection, including a sore throat, cough, headache, nausea and diarrhea.

He presented himself at a Washoe County Health District community testing event on April 18 and tested positive for Covid-19 for the first time.

The patient's first symptoms completely resolved on April 27 while in isolation. After that, he continued to feel fine and tested negative for the coronavirus twice, on May 9 and May 26.

From May 28, the 25-year-old had symptoms such as fever, headache, dizziness, cough, nausea and diarrhea again.

On June 5th, 48 days after the first positive test, the patient contracted the virus for the second time. His condition was found to be symptomatic "more severe" than the first.

He presented himself to a family doctor and had to be treated in the hospital for shortness of breath. He later recovered and was released from the hospital.

COVID-19 coronavirus molecule, March 24, 2020.

CDC | API | Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images

Scientists said the patient caught the coronavirus on two separate occasions rather than the original infection bouncing back after hibernation. This is because a comparison of the genetic codes showed "significant differences" between each variant associated with each case of infection.

"These results suggest that the patient was infected twice with SARS-CoV-2 by a genetically different virus. Therefore, prior exposure to SARS-CoV-2 may not guarantee complete immunity in all cases," the authors of the Study said.

"Everyone, regardless of whether or not previously diagnosed with COVID-19, should take identical precautions to avoid becoming infected with SARS-CoV-2," they added.

To protect yourself, the WHO recommends keeping a physical distance of at least 1 meter from other people, wearing a mask, avoiding crowds, ventilating rooms well, and cleaning your hands thoroughly and frequently.

The Lancet said the patient had given written consent to publish the report, with ethics approval revoked by the University of Nevada, Reno Institutional Review Board.

Secondary coronavirus infections

A second case of the coronavirus was thought to be milder than the first, although it remains unclear why the Nevada patient became more seriously ill the second time.

Reports of secondary coronavirus infections in Hong Kong, the Netherlands and Belgium said they were no more serious than the first.

However, one in Ecuador reflected the US case as being more severe, but this case did not require hospital treatment.

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Katherine Clark