If you’ve already had the coronavirus, can you get it again?
Last week, the total number of COVID-19 infections topped 100 million worldwide. Back in October, when there were only 38 million cases, incidents of reinfection seemed rare, with only a couple of dozen cases reported.
But is that still accurate? Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says health officials are beginning to see “a number of cases” reported as reinfections.
In general, reinfection means a person was infected (got sick) once, recovered, and then later became infected again.
Based on what is known from similar viruses, some reinfections are expected, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
It’s usual to develop some immunity to a virus after an infection, since our bodies are generally better at recognizing and fighting off bugs they’ve encountered before. That seems to be the case with the coronavirus as well, though scientists are still trying to figure out how long any protection might last.
POSITIVE SIGN FOR VACCINES
Researchers from the University of Arizona found antibodies that protect against infection can last for at least five to seven months after a COVID-19 infection.
In another study, only two out of 1,265 health workers in the United Kingdom who were previously infected ended up testing positive again for the coronavirus in the following six months. In yet another study of people in the U.S., only 0.3 percent of people who had been infected tested positive for the virus over the next several months – around the same rate of positivity as the U.K study.
The findings bode well for the COVID-19 vaccines that are being rolled out, which trigger the kind of immune responses that the studies found protective.
Scientists are still studying whether newly emerging, fast-spreading variants of the coronavirus might reduce the protective effects of two leading vaccines.
EVERYONE SHOULD BE VACCINATED
Regardless of whether you’ve already had the virus, the CDC says people should plan on getting vaccinated when it’s their turn. However, if you’ve been infected in the last three months, the CDC says it’s OK to delay vaccination if you want to let others go first while supplies are limited.
At this time, whether you have had COVID-19 or not, the best way to prevent infection is to take steps to protect yourself:
- Wear a mask in public places.
- Stay at least six feet away from other people
- Wash your hands.
- Avoid crowds and confined spaces.