Those who recover from COVID-19 are at risk of reinfection

Updated: Nov. 11, 2020 at 8:59 PM CST
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Despite the notable jump in COVID-19 cases across the country and here in Alabama, many providers still believe the numbers are likely higher than reported due to lack of comprehensive testing.

The increased transmission rate is cause for concern headed into the holiday season, even for those who have already had the virus.

Eight months into the COVID-19 outbreak, we now know the virus is far more contagious than originally thought, and patients who recover are at risk of reinfection.

“I think it’s maybe not that uncommon”, stated Dr. Jeanne Marrazzo, M.D., Director of UAB Division of Infectious Diseases. “I don’t think it’s going to be really common. What do I mean by that? Initially they were saying less than 1%. I’m not really sure it’s going to be that low and maybe as high as 5% or even 10%.”

Marrazzo says UAB’s treated patients who’ve contracted COVID twice and expects that number to grow.

“The cases that have been described have been very persuasive, and they’ve happened pretty much after about three months, which makes sense because your antibody probably doesn’t last beyond three to four months. Even though we have some debate about that.”

COVID-19 is part of the spectrum of viruses that cause the common cold, which some contract multiple times a year.

“I don’t think that the natural immunity to these infections is particularly long-lasting”, she explained.

Given the bump in cases ahead of the holidays and indoor gatherings, Marrazzo says the risk of reinfection remains. She encourages anyone who’s had the virus to continue to wear a mask, practice vigorous hygiene measures and avoid crowds.

“If you’ve had COVID before, don’t assume you’re not susceptible again”, Marrazzo explained. “It may mean your second infection isn’t as severe, but it doesn’t mean you can’t transmit it. Even if you don’t have a bad infection the second time, you’re still able to give it to somebody who might have a bad infection the first time.”

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