Can you get infected with Coronavirus COVID-19 twice?
Experts say it’s very unlikely that you will get infected with a case of COVID-19 twice in a short period of time. It is not currently known what this period of time is.
But what about people becoming infected for a second time?
It was recently discovered that a man in Hong Kong was infected a second time after he recovered from COVID-19. He was reinfected with COVID-19 and tested positive 142 days after his first infection. This individual had symptoms of COVID-19 during his first infection, but has remained asymptomatic during the second infection.
Some researchers speculate that cases like these are not true “reinfections”, but rather a scenario where the virus stays dormant in the body for several months and then “ramps up” again. This is a similar situation experienced by some patients with the Chicken Pox virus.
Can you get sick from COVID-19 twice?
While it is unclear whether you can technically become reinfected with COVID-19, it is possible to get sick more than once from the virus. There have been several reported cases where individuals get sick from COVID-19, make a recovery, and then get sick again. These individuals had symptoms the second time as well as the first.
Possible explanations for reinfection?
Different strands of the virus. Viruses have the ability to mutate over time. For example, there is more than one strand of Flu (Influenza), that’s why we have to get a new vaccine every year. Depending on how fast COVID-19 mutates, we could already have several new strands of coronaviruses responsible for infection.
Mild or non-infection the first time. Other documented cases show that patients who tested positive for COVID-19 multiple times, may not truly have been reinfected, but rather have some of the virus’ genetic material lingering within the body, leading to repeated positive results.
Case of one. While the case in Hong Kong is new knowledge, it is a case of one and cannot be generalized to the entire population. It is crucial to monitor this trend at the community or population level to see how reinfections work within this pandemic. At this time, there has been no confirmatory study suggesting that humans can be infected with Coronavrius twice.
What happens if reinfection is possible?
Reinfection is not a new or scary concept. Matter of fact, reinfection isn't unique to sars cov-2, it also happens in other diseases like the Flu.
In the U.S., 9.3M to 45M people get the Flu every year, though it is very rare that you get the Flu twice per season, it is common to get the Flu again in the next year. This is because there is more than one strand of Flu (Influenza), and that being infected with one doesn’t provide immunity to others.
It is important, however, to know how long the immunity lasts if you are infected. If the immunity lasts long enough to carry you through the next season and there is a vaccine, that is the ideal scenario. However, if the immunity is relatively short lived and there is no vaccine, quarantine may last longer than what we have anticipated. In the meantime, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and public health officials are urging individuals to wear a mask, maintain a social distance from others, and practice good hygiene.
How do you know if you have immunity to COVID-19?
In order to know if you have immunity to COVID-19, you must have an antibody test done. When you’re exposed to the virus, your body makes cells called memory white blood cells, so if you’re exposed to the virus again, your body will know to make antibodies to fight against it. This antibody response should prevent you from getting sick again.
After a certain percent of the population is infected with COVID-19 or is effectively vaccinated, a region can achieve heard immunity to the virus. It is likely that there will be a a COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2020.
You can read more about how the antibody tests work here.
Where & how much does it cost to get tested for COVID-19 immunity?
You can get antibody testing at urgent care centers, some public or private hospitals, as well as through other healthcare providers and laboratories.
The cost of your COVID-19 antibody test cost will likely vary depending on your testing site, location, and severity of symptoms. See our latest article How Much Does Coronavirus Testing Cost With or Without Insurance for a comprehensive guide on testing costs.
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