COVID-19: Can You Catch it Twice?

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(— April 30, 2020) —  Patients who have contracted viruses usually acquire immunity from that specific strain of virus. However, some patients who recovered from COVID-19, passed all tests for the coronavirus, but then later again tested positive for COVID-19, the BBC reports.

What is different about this virus then?

“The question is not whether you become immune, it’s how long for,” said Paul Hunter, a professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia. “It almost certainly will not last for life,” he added.

Calling on antibody studies in Sars, Mr. Hunter claims it is possible that immunity will only last about one to two years, “though this is not yet known for certain.”

Some viruses are known to be more resilient than others and can stay in the body for three months or even longer. There are other viruses that are more resilient to vaccines. Also, there are vaccines, such as the one against influenza, or the common flu, that must be given every year because the viruses mutate from one season to the next.

Because COVID-19 is a new virus, however, scientists are still trying to find an explanation for such a short period between two infections.

There have been reports of people appearing to have multiple coronavirus infections in a short space of time. There are two theories which might explain this: According to some scientists, people are genuinely being infected twice. Another school of thought is that the virus became inactively hidden somewhere in the body, and when conditions are right, they reactivate.

The third, and most likely correct theory is that patients are being incorrectly told they were free of the virus, due to faulty test reliability issues.

Isidoro Martinez, the researcher at the Carlos III Health Institute in Madrid, told BBC that it is “normal” that you will be infected again in the next outbreak within a year or two if there is no permanent immunity.

The Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) told the BBC that “this is a new virus about which we learn something new every day,” so it is not possible to explain these cases of re-infection with certainty.”

Scientists, however, are trying to find the answer that would help governments make decisions about what health measures to take amid the COVID-19 pandemic while they are have begun developing a vaccine. A recent UK vaccine trial volunteer says she is ‘doing fine’ after online rumors of his death.