With numerous cases of possible COVID-19 reinfections being reported throughout the world, many in the medical community have been left to wonder whether reinfection is a growing problem in the battle against the coronavirus. Before we dig deeper into the subject, it is important to remember that the coronavirus is still a newly discovered disease, that scientists and HCPs are studying daily, in order to better understand this new strain of disease. A definitive vaccine has not been produced, and the number of worldwide cases continues to rapidly climb. However, there is good news as many experts such as Dr. Randy Orr, Medical Director of the Intensive Care Unit at Northwestern Lake Forest Hospital, do not believe reinfection will be an issue, saying “prior history suggests that once a patient is infected with COVID-19, they will have a significant degree of immunity, or protection from the virus infecting them again in the coming months”.
The reason Dr. Orr and other experts remain optimistic, is because they believe that COVID-19 acts like most viruses, in the fact that once the body has detected it has been infected, it starts to produce antibodies, to destroy the virus and keep it from a second contraction. Antibodies usually take the body 7-10 days to be produced but can fight off certain illnesses from months to a year. Chinese scientists begun research and experiments on rhesus monkeys and found that the monkey’s antibodies kept them from a second contraction. In an encouraging historical study, antibodies during the SARS outbreak, were said to have been able to last for up to three years.
Usually when people become reinfected, it is from bacteria, or a different strain of the same type of virus. Take for instance the rhinovirus, which usually causes the common cold, has over 160 strains. Another important piece of information to note, is that everyone’s immune system is different. Some people have stronger immune systems than others, so while most people would not be at risk for reinfection, this does not apply for every single individual.
Physicians and other HCPs say not to stress too much when hearing about reinfection cases, due to two reasons. The first reason is, because a positive test could be detecting left over virus strains that may be still in the body, but are not causing any symptoms. The second reason is, that the tests are not 100% accurate and have in the past, on occasions mistakenly misdiagnosed someone.
Regardless of how low the possibility is of contracting COVID-19 twice, HCPs and researchers need to treat this pandemic, as if it will be here for the foreseeable future. It is imperative that people continue to practice social distancing, while the medical professionals continue to perform research and conduct experiments for a vaccine.