Can You Get Reinfected with COVID-19 After You’ve Had It?


What are the chances of reinfection after the person who tested positive for COVID-19 gets recovered? This question garnered attention after some reports which surfaced on the internet stated that people who have recovered from coronavirus infection have later tested positive for the virus again, doubting if recovery from the virus is even possible or not. Also, if a person is reinfected with the coronavirus again, how severe is it? 

Let’s have a look at what we know about the concept of COVID-19 recovery and reinfection as yet.

Can you recover from coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Catching the new coronavirus does not mean you will have it for life. According to the World Health Organization (WHO)[1], most of the people who catch COVID-19 infection can recover. This means you can eliminate the virus from your body once you get fully recovered from the infection.

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Can COVID-19 reinfect an individual? What Experts Have To Say

As per the data of other viruses and strains of coronaviruses, a person tends to develop antibodies in around 7-10 days after getting infected. So depending upon the type of the virus, these antibodies can offer protection against reinfection after recovery. However, you must know that the antibodies offer protection only to a specific strain of the coronavirus that a person was infected with and not against all the strains of coronavirus. 

Dr. Samir Garde, Pulmonologist and Lung Specialist, Global Hospital, Mumbai says “If a person has COVID-19 and recovered, the body certainly develops defensive antibodies to protect against the possible coming back of the infection. But, for how long a person might remain immune to the coronavirus is not known.”

Does being infected with COVID-19 make you immune?

While it is certain that a person who has been infected with Coronavirus once, attains a defense system through certain antibodies, it is too early to say this protection will last throughout lifetime as yet. Moreover, it depends on various factors such as how a person’s immune system might respond post an infection, how long the immunity will be sustained and how effective it will be to offer lifelong protection. There is still a lot more to learn and know about immunity post COVID-19 infection. 

As per data available as of now, it is less likely that COVID-19 can reinfect an individual in a short span of time. 

What could be the possible reasons for testing positive within weeks after recovery?

A positive test after recovery could be identifying the leftover virus that can still be present but is not able to cause infection. A second case may be that the infection was persisting in their bodies at lower levels and then re-emerged. Or it could also mean that the swab could not capture viral particles during the prior testing process and the tests were false negative.

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What’s the way forward?

As far as immunity with antibodies is concerned, it was revealed recently that Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST), Kerala is planning to start off with antibody passive immunization as a treatment option for COVID-19. This treatment aims at using the plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients as it is rich in antibodies. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is finalizing a protocol on Convalescent Plasma Therapy, which will be then submitted to the Drug Controller General of India for final approval.[2]

Any special tips for a person who has recovered from COVID-19?

The set of rules and guidelines for a person who has recovered from COVID-19 remains the same as that for any healthy individual. These include:

Follow social distancing, proper cough etiquette, use facemasks and wash your hands regularly to prevent infection.

Self-quarantine (stay indoors) if anyone in your family or community is tested positive for COVID-19 to lower your chances of getting infected.

-If a person experiences symptoms such as cough, fever or difficulty in breathing, it is important to seek urgent medical care. Consult your doctor either on phone or through online because the chances of recovery is higher if you get access to proper treatment and supportive care.

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Still don’t know how the infection with novel coronavirus spreads? Read the article to know more on how to protect yourself & your family. Click Here!

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)

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1. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public: Myth busters. Advice for public. Coronavirus disease 2019. Diseases. Emergencies. World Health Organization(WHO).

2. PIB. National Media center.

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