Italy mulls new WHO guidelines on virus patient isolation
ROME (AP) - The Italian Ministry of Health is asking government advisers to evaluate the World Health Organization's new recommendations that people with COVID-19 can get out of isolation before running a negative coronavirus test.
The WHO said last week that patients who have had symptoms in isolation for 10 consecutive days can be released if they are symptom-free for at least three days. People who do not develop COVID-19 symptoms can terminate isolation 10 days after the first positive test in accordance with the revised WHO guidelines.
The WHO previously recommended that the isolation of infected people only be stopped after they had been tested negative twice at 24-hour intervals. The change is significant as many countries are dealing with thousands of people who are technically infected with the virus but may not yet be at risk of transmission to others.
The United States Department of Health announced that it had updated its recommendations as recovered COVID-19 patients tested positive for the virus weeks later. Despite their results, "these patients are unlikely to be infectious and may not be able to transfer the virus to someone else," said the WHO.
Italy, the former epicenter of the pandemic in Europe, followed WHO's previous test recommendations. Some people isolated themselves even though they felt good because they continued to test positive for the coronavirus.
A woman made headlines in Italy for testing positive six times in 57 days, despite saying that she felt good. But technically, it had to stay isolated.
Health Minister Roberto Speranza asked the Italian government's Scientific and Technical Advisory Council on Sunday for guidance on WHO's new recommendations and noted that this was a "significant" change in Italian management of COVID-19 patients.
Speranza said in a statement that the updated council could also change how the government counts who has officially recovered from the virus and recommended "maximum precaution".
Anecdotally, doctors said that many of the newly confirmed cases in Italy are due to the fact that people were tested for the virus after a blood test for COVID-19 antibodies.
In Italy, those who have developed antibodies are automatically tested specifically for the coronavirus, with some positive results being recorded in people who may have been ill much earlier or who have never felt ill.
Italy reported 224 new coronavirus cases and 24 deaths on the previous day, raising the official death toll in the pandemic to 34,634.
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