It’s not yet known if people who are infected once can get the coronavirus twice. But according to the South China Morning Post, there are reports of as many as 10% of coronavirus patients leaving medical facilities in Wuhan, China, only to be re-infected. The news is raising fears that you may not develop immunity to the virus. This would mean that, until there is an effective vaccine, you could experience repeated rounds of infection.
The chance of getting coronavirus twice is small, but scientists think that it is unlikely that the virus is striking twice. Here’s why: Robin May, a professor of infectious disease and director of the Institute of Microbiology and Infection at the University of Birmingham told France 24 news that when you contract a viral infection, your body develops antibodies that are very specific to the virus that infected you and after you recover, these antibodies don’t disappear.
“They go into hibernation, and are ready to wake up as soon as the same pathogen tries to contaminate the body again,” May says. This characteristic of the immune system is the same against all known viruses.
Those who recover from the coronavirus are probably not going to catch it again, at least in the short term, experts say. But it's unclear how long that immunity will last.
There are a couple of factors that could affect your potential immunity. The first is whether the virus mutates. If it stays stable and you contract the virus, you will be able to keep the virus from coming back if you’re exposed to it a second time. That’s because the antibodies in your blood will recognize it and prevent it from replicating.
But the coronavirus is an RNA virus. This means that its genetic material is made up of RNA, not DNA, and RNA viruses have a tendency to mutate over time. An example is seasonal influenza. It’s an RNA virus that usually changes from year to year.
Animal studies are already being done and the results are encouraging. They tested positive for COVID-19, recovered two weeks later, and were confirmed to have antibodies to the virus in their bloodstream.
More research is needed, but in the meantime, top health officials are expressing confidence that coronavirus antibodies are likely able to create an immune response and prevent a person who had the infection from getting sick with it a second time. It’s just too hard to tell if it will last long term.
Your best defense is to do all that you can from contracting the virus: Social distancing, washing your hands, and disinfecting surfaces in your home with antibacterial cleaners are your main weapons in this fight.
Until the number of COVID-19 patients begins to decrease in the United States, it will remain a major public health issue. But if you think you are showing signs or symptoms of coronavirus call your doctor immediately.And if you’re unsure about going into the office to see your doctor about something else that may be bothering you, North Ohio Heart and Ohio Medical Group are now offering telehealth appointments. You can visit a virtual doctor from the comfort of your own home.