Japanese woman catches coronavirus again, weeks after recovery

People wearing protective face masks, following an outbreak of the coronavirus, are seen in front of the Giant Olympic rings at the waterfront area at Odaiba Marine Park in Tokyo, Japan, February 27, 2020. (Reuters Photo)

A woman in Japan who contracted the new coronavirus and was released from the hospital after recovering has tested positive again, officials said Thursday. The case is the first time a patient apparently cleared of the virus has subsequently tested positive for it, a local official in Osaka said.

The woman in her 40s was first confirmed as infected with the coronavirus on Jan. 29. She was working as a guide on a tour bus with tourists from Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, in January. The driver of the bus was also diagnosed with the virus. After being discharged from the hospital, she tested negative for the virus on Feb. 6, although she still had a cough at the time. She had no symptoms a week later but returned to the doctor on Feb. 21 complaining of a sore throat and chest pains. On Wednesday, she tested positive for the coronavirus for a second time, officials said.

At least 186 people in Japan have so far contracted the virus, with three deaths in the country linked to the outbreak. Aside from domestic cases, at least 705 people have been diagnosed with the virus onboard a cruise ship that was quarantined off Japan, including passengers who were allowed to leave the boat after testing negative. There have been four deaths linked to the virus from the ship.

The government has come under pressure for a relatively hands-off approach to the virus, but on Thursday the Osaka prefectural government said it would expand screening of patients to a broader group than currently stipulated by central guidelines.

"We will make sure that people who should be tested, get tested, and will avoid a worst-case scenario by preventing these people from developing symptoms and serious conditions," Osaka Gov. Hirofumi Yoshimura said.

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