COVID-19 Reinfections Occur – Although Rarely So Far

October 15, 2020

 

COVID-19 continues to spread and severely impact the world. People of all ages are being infected but as we have covered before, people with diabetes seem to be more vulnerable to becoming severely ill as the virus can be harder to treat due to fluctuations in blood glucose levels and, possibly, the presence of diabetes complications. We are all waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine so that things can get back to normal. Meanwhile, the emphasis will continue to be on handwashing, social distancing and wearing face masks.

 

Those precautions are not only for the ones who have managed to escape the virus so far. Recent studies have confirmed at least five reinfection cases in as many countries. In a previous blog, we discussed COVID-19 immunity and if it was possible to get it twice. Now it seems that the answer is “Yes” even if it may be extremely rare and more research is required to fully understand the possibility of reinfection.

 

In one of the recent studies on a confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection in the United States, researchers found evidence that an individual with no known immune disorders or underlying conditions was infected with COVID-19 in two separate occurrences. The patient who is a 25-year old male was infected with two distinct COVID-19 variants within a 48-day timeframe, while testing negative in between infections. After experiencing severe COVID-19 symptoms again, including fever, headache, dizziness, cough, nausea, and diarrhea, the patient was hospitalized and tested positive a second time. According to the researchers, the patient’s second infection was more severe, resulting in hospitalization with oxygen support. The patient has since been discharged from the hospital and has recovered from the second infection.

 

Several hypotheses have been put forward to try to explain the severity of the second infection. One is the possibility that the patient, after having been infected for the first time, encountered a very high dose of the virus which caused a more acute reaction the second time. Another hypothesis is that the patient may have come in contact with a more virulent version of the virus.

 

In the view of the researchers, the five reinfection cases indicate that previous exposure to COVID-19 may not translate to guaranteed total immunity. But further research into reinfections is required. According to one of the lead researchers, Dr. Pandori, we need a more profound understanding on how long immunity may last for people exposed to COVID-19 and why some of these second infections, while rare, turn out to be more severe. In light of this, the researchers strongly suggest that individuals who have already been infected with COVID-19 continue to take serious precautions when it comes to the virus with emphasis on handwashing, social distancing and wearing masks.

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