Why do COVID-19 patients need collective or home quarantine for 14 days after being discharged from hospitals?

CIKD | Updated: 2020-04-05 09:35

It is important to note that the information provided in this Series is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment.

A couple recovering from the novel coronavirus and medics pose for photos as the couple is discharged from Leishenshan Hospital in Wuhan on March 18, 2020. [Photo by Gao Xiang/For]

According to the Diagnosis and Treatment Protocol for Coronavirus Pneumonia (Trial Version 7) issued by the Chinese National Health Commission (NHC), the discharge criteria for COVID-19 patients are as follows: no fever for more than three days, improved respiratory symptoms, pulmonary imaging showing obvious absorption of inflammation, and two consecutive negative nuclei acid test results for respiratory tract samples. The Protocol also recommends that patients continue to undergo quarantine and observe their own health conditions for 14 days. 

COVID-19 patients need collective or home quarantine and observation for 14 days after being discharged from hospitals for the following reasons:

First, a small amount of coronavirus still exists in some patients who have met the discharge criteria. In the light of current epidemiological observation, patients infected with the novel coronavirus usually do not show clinical symptoms during the incubation period. More importantly, although some discharged patients may show significantly-improved or no clinical symptoms, they could still carry a small amount of virus and are in a recovery process of virus clearance. With the 14-day quarantine and observation after being discharged from hospitals, the recurrence of positive NCT after the initial recovery and the source of infection can be controlled to the greatest extent.

Second, nucleic acid tests may appear "false-negative" for people infected with the novel coronavirus. The test results can be "false-negative" because of such reasons as the characteristics of the novel coronavirus, the stability of coronavirus test kits, and the collection and transportation of samples. Through the two-week quarantine and observation, these patients could be transferred to designated hospitals for re-diagnosis in time once the clinical symptoms like fever and cough appear. This also helps cut the transmission of the disease.

Third, two-week collective or home quarantine can reduce the risk of infection with other pathogens due to low immune function. If discharged patients do not undergo effective health management and test during the recovery period, they would be at the risk of infection with other pathogens due to their weakened immune system.

Author: Hu Dengsheng

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