Is it possible to catch COVID-19 twice?

One of the reasons that COVID-19 has been so impactful on a global scale is it is completely new. As its name tells us, the virus was only discovered in 2019, and late in the year. This means that there is still much we don’t know about the disease.

When the virus first emerged, it was believed that once you had been infected, you would be immune from catching COVID-19 a second time. However, emerging research suggests that this may not be the case.

What happens when I catch COVID-19

The symptoms and severity of COVID-19 can vary greatly between individuals. Although some people experience a very severe and even fatal illness, most people have only mild symptoms. Or, they may not notice any symptoms at all. The vast majority of patients make a full recovery.

There are a large number of potential symptoms of COVID-19, and not everyone experiences all of them.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), potential symptoms that may appear between two and 14 days after exposure to the virus include:

  • Fever or chills
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle or body aches
  • Headache
  • New loss of taste or smell
  • Sore throat
  • Congestion or runny nose
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhoea

Just like any viral infection, when you catch COVID-19, your body will create antibodies, which the CDC tells us will happen within one to three weeks of getting infected with the virus. These antibodies are part of our natural defence system and help the body to fight the virus. The antibodies are specific to the disease, so when you have COVID-19, your body produces specific antibodies to defend itself from this virus.

Why do I test positive to COVID-19 even after recovery?

Among the things that we don’t yet know about COVID-19 are how long you will be infectious after you have recovered and how quickly you can expect to go back to full health. Scientists all over the world are intensely studying the virus, and we are learning new information all the time.

Some recent reports say that patients have shown symptoms months after their diagnosis of having COVID-19. There have also been reports of patients testing positive to COVID-19 even months after recovering from the virus. This may indicate that recovered patients are becoming reinfected and falling ill with the virus once again. Indeed, even relatively early in the pandemic, authorities reported some cases of reinfection.

Although scientists agree that patients who have had COVID-19 gain at least some level of immunity to the virus afterwards, the picture is far from clear. We are by no means sure that all people who have had COVID-19 will not be able to catch it again.

Will antibodies protect me from COVID-19?

Every virus is different, and therefore the body reacts differently to each virus. This means that properties of the antibodies it produces to fight the virus will also be different. This is why some diseases offer greater immunitythan others following recovery. For example, once you have had measles, you are generally immune for the rest of your life and cannot catch it again. On the other hand, the influenza virus mutates so rapidly that you can catch the flu more than once and need to have a flu shot every year.

Because COVID-19 is still being studied, we do not know whether antibodies to COVID-19 will protect us from becoming reinfected with the virus. Nor do we know how long these antibodies will remain in your system. Current research indicates that the novel coronavirus does not mutate as quickly as the flu. Therefore, natural immunity from previous infection or a vaccine should offer some form of protection. And, scientists tell us that although we may be able to catch COVID-19 again, it will likely not be as severe the second time around.

Although the science remains unclear and research is ongoing, it seems that becoming infected with COVID-19 may not offer the immunity that we hoped it would. For this reason, it continues to be important for everyone to take precautions to avoid COVID-19, even if you may have previously been infected.

The best way to do this is to follow social distancing practices, proper respiratory hygiene, and regularly washing and sanitising your hands. Order your hand sanitiser with 75% ethanol today to ensure you stay protected.