A very sneaky virus

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The first cases of COVID-19 arrived in New Zealand on February 26, 2020—or so we thought. Now, testing has revealed the virus began to spread slightly earlier.

A traveller from Italy arrived on February 23, then became ill with what seemed like the flu. So did six members of their household. They didn’t qualify for COVID-19 testing at the time, but followed advice to isolate and recovered. Six months later, one member of the group came down with a cold, had a nasal swab, and returned a weak positive result for COVID-19. Further testing revealed the man already had antibodies for the virus, so researchers concluded that the viral genetic material detected was residue from a past infection (and that the man probably wasn’t contagious). For researchers, it reveals that the virus can still be detected in the body up to 201 days after an initial infection.

This is now the first known case—and cluster—in New Zealand.

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