American Catches COVID-19 Twice, Second Time Is Worse

A Nevada man is the first person in the U.S. to be confirmed as having COVID-19 for a second time. This leads to doubts that we could get herd immunity. If people aren’t protected from COVID-19 by already having it, they might still be able to pass it on. It also shows that a vaccine is still needed. And, unfortunately, the man’s second battle with COVID-19 was much worse than his first.

We’re still learning about the biology of the virus and our own biology with regards to dealing with the virus,” said Mark Pandori, director of the Nevada State Public Health Laboratory. “While we don’t know how generalizable the finding is, a person can get this virus again, and they can become as sick or even more sick the second time around.”

The man is only 25 and doesn’t have any other medical concerns. He caught two different strains of the virus two months apart. He tested negative for COVID-19 twice between having symptoms, showing he had recovered. The negative tests, and the fact that it was a new strain of the virus, show it wasn’t a relapse: it was a new infection. Thankfully, the man did recover from COVID-19 again and left the hospital.

Just being infected a second time doesn’t guarantee you’ll become sicker. The second bout of COVID-19 could be more mild, asymptomatic or worse than the first time. Scientists don’t know enough to explain why the man experienced his infections the way he did. Doctors who work on the immune system have said that your reaction can be based on the amount of virus you’re exposed to. The man may have been infected with more of the virus the second time around that would lead to worse symptoms.

Many of us would think that having the virus once would make us immune. That is frequently the case with viruses. That doesn’t appear to be happening with COVID-19. That might be because it is mutating. It could be because of some other factor. Reinfections have also been seen in Belgium, Ecuador, Hong Kong and the Netherlands. That means people have to wear masks, socially distance, wash their hands and avoid touching their faces — even if they have already been ill.

All individuals, whether previously diagnosed with COVID-19 or not, should take identical precautions to avoid infection with SARS-CoV-2,” the researchers looking at the man’s case wrote in their report.

A tested vaccine can help the immune system have a much stronger reaction to the virus. That is why doctors favor vaccines over herd immunity. It’s also more tested, so we know how long their protection lasts. Right now, we don’t have one that has been proven to be safe and effective.

The good thing about a vaccine is that it can induce much better immunity, a much longer lasting immunity, than the natural exposure to the virus,” said Dr. Akiko Iwasaki of Yale Univ.

This man is only the first person to be confirmed to be reinfected in the U.S. It’s too early to draw any firm conclusions about how this may impact COVID-19 research. But, as always, the advice is to take away is simple: wash your hands, cover your nose and mouth, stand six feet away from people and don’t touch your face.

Banner Image: Martha Dominguez de Gouveia via Unsplash
October 14, 2020

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