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COVID-19 immunity and reinfection: why it’s still essential to take precautions

COVID-19 immunity and reinfection: why it’s still essential to take precautions

Even if you have ever tested positive, there is a chance you could contract the virus again. And you could infect other people. You should still take the necessary precautions.



With some viruses, once you have been infected and have developed antibodies, you will be immune to that virus for life. Past infection with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes COVID-19, does not, as far as is known at this stage, guarantee protection against future infections. It’s not absolutely clear whether this virus may become dormant and, upon reactivation, cause a recurrence of infection. Caroline Southey, editor of The Conversation Africa, asked Sehaam Khan and Saurabh Sinha to explain.


What are antibodies and what is their function?

When a virus infects a host, it invades the host cells and replicates (makes copies of itself). One way that our immune system protects us is to remove the virus from the body before it gets the chance to infect a cell. The immune system has cells called B lymphocytes which make proteins called antibodies. Antibodies recognize invading pathogens such as viruses and bind to them. Then the antibodies neutralize or destroy the virus so that it can’t infect the host cell.


B lymphocytes also form memory cells which “remember” the pathogen. This enables the host to produce antibodies faster if there’s an infection by that virus in future.



For some viruses – measles, for example – once a person has been infected, they are considered to have lifelong immunity. Other viruses mutate, so people can be affected more than once. The seasonal flu virus is an example.


What are the knowns and unknowns?

There are new things to learn about severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causative agent of the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s not known how long a person is protected by antibodies after infection by SARS-CoV-2. The level of protection is also unknown. Measures to diagnose, mitigate, treat and prevent infection continue to evolve. Policies are also evolving.


Globally, there have been a few accounts of patients who have tested positive, then negative, then positive again for COVID-19. While this is still currently a rare event, when a patient has symptoms and/or tests positive a second time, it could (in theory) be the same virus as the one that infected the person the first time. In other words, the virus entered the body, caused disease, became dormant in the person and later got reactivated to cause illness again. It might be that the body’s antibody protection had a limited life. Not much is known about the possibility of reinfection with the two other known coronaviruses, severe acute respiratory syndrome and Middle East respiratory syndrome. However, reinfections have been previously reported for the H1N1 virus.



So, if you have ever tested positive, there is a chance you could contract the virus again. And you could possibly infect other people. You should still take the necessary precautions. Cover your nose and mouth with a face mask, avoid touching your face, avoid large gatherings, maintain physical distancing, sanitize, and keep doors and windows open if possible. If you have flu-like symptoms or are exposed to an infected person, isolate yourself and be vigilant.


Why does the question of reinfection matter in the pursuit of a vaccine?

A vaccine is a biological agent that imitates an infection. It stimulates a person’s immune system (to produce lymphocytes and antibodies), while almost never causing disease, and protecting the person from that disease. Sometimes, triggering the imitation of infection produces minor symptoms, such as fever. This can be expected as the body builds immunity. After a few weeks, the body has a supply of lymphocytes that will remember how to fight that disease in the future. When enough people have been immunized, the virus will not have enough eligible hosts, and should naturally die out. For example, infectious diseases such as measles, mumps and polio were once common but are now rare in most areas, because vaccines helped to establish herd immunity.


The new COVID vaccine will ideally make people immune to any variant of the virus. Many research groups have looked at the genetic diversity of the virus and whether mutations affect the working of the vaccine.

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6 Saved
20 Comments
Samuel· Dec 17, 23:38
BullShit!! Let’s talk
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2 Likes
Aaron· Dec 18, 01:43
They are messing with us
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Aaron· Dec 18, 01:44
Nonsense.
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Ify· Dec 19, 22:18
Why is everybody saying bullshit and nonsense ?? 🤷
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Aaron· Dec 20, 00:32
Because this is a virus with a 99.6 % recovery rate
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Augusta· Dec 20, 01:18

Aaron of course. Unless you or your relative is the 49 yr old whom we had to pull a tube out of in the ICU. Or the 29 y/o that had a tube stuck in his throat in a breathing machine for more than a week while his doctors and nurses prayed for him. Play silly games win silly 0.1% prizes

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Aaron· Dec 20, 01:21

Augusta stop believing the fear mongering. COVID is highly contagious,yes but is it HIGHLY FATAL,no. COVID-19 has a 99.6% recovery rate, yet Ebola has a 10% recovery rate. Stop believing the COVID-19 propaganda.

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Augusta· Dec 20, 01:22

Aaron honey, I’m the doctor treating the covid and watching people die. 50% of those who get into the ICU leave alive. But you should believe whatever makes you feel better

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Aaron· Dec 20, 01:29

Augusta Riddle me this...

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Augusta· Dec 20, 01:29

Aaron do you have an actual question?

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Aaron· Dec 20, 01:32

Augusta when are you taking the vaccine live on TV? I want to see something...

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Augusta· Dec 20, 01:38

Aaron when you get it, stay at home. You will be alright.

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Aaron· Dec 20, 01:39

Augusta had Covid-19, beat it, developed immunity, I’m done. No vaccine for me...

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Aaron· Dec 20, 01:36
Stats the Media never stress, instead it’s projected death rates and cases,cases,cases etc smfh
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Ify· Dec 20, 19:56
Covid-19 is real ooo.. my colleague had it and he was very very sick. He said he would not wish the 2 weeks of hell on anybody. His body was not his for 2 weeks . He was extremely sick. The way the virus attacked another person 's body and the person was able to recover fast might not be the same for another person. Wear your mask ooo..
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Aaron· Dec 20, 20:17
Nobody said it isn’t real, it just has a HIGH RECOVERY RATE
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Ify· Dec 20, 20:49

Aaron and many lives were lost and people are still dying . So please do not relax because the recovery rate is high . Hm....

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Aaron· Dec 20, 21:20

Ify I had Covid-19, treated the symptoms with over the counter medicine, recovered in 3 days, developed immunity & now I don’t need a vaccine.

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Ify· Dec 20, 21:40

Aaron you remind me of someone 🤔🤔. Oh ! Trump...🏃🏃🏃🏃

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Aaron· Dec 20, 21:41

Ify thanks I’m honored to be the most pro Christian POTUS ever

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