Can a COVID-19 recovered person get infected with the virus again?

CDC, United States recently issued guidelines about re-infection in recovered patients

Amid the rising number of coronavirus cases in India and the world, reports from China and South Korea are suggesting that recovered COVID-19 patients have got coronavirus infection again. Similar cases have come into light in India too. A doctor in Noida tested positive for the infection again after recovering from the virus. One recovered patient in Himachal Pradesh was found positive. Ten patients in Mohali after being discharged from the hospital tested positive for the COVID-19 again. Some similar incidents have been reported in Kerala too. All these reports have raised the concern whether COVID-19 recovered person can get re-infected by the coronavirus? Have they developed immunity against the infection, and if they have, then for how long?

So far, none of the scientists or researchers are able to say whether re-infection is possible and if it is possible then after how many days of recovery. They are not sure if the cured person can become immune to re-infection of COVID-19. However, new guidelines of the CDC (Centre for Disease Control and Prevention) in the United States have answered some of these questions in light of updated knowledge from the latest research.

The CDC said that they have not witnessed a confirmed case of re-infection in a recovered patient so far. It also said that when a re-infection can occur remains unknown and is a matter of investigation.

They also warned that even though there have not been any confirmed cases of re-infection, this doesn’t mean that people once infected with the COVID-19 has developed immunity against re-infection.

Read more: Can mosquitoes spread COVID-19 infection from one person to another?

Why recovered patients are coming Corona positive

The CDC in its guidelines during the weekend said that recovered patient may have low levels of COVID-19 in their bodies for up to 3 months after they were first infected. And this virus can be detected in the Coronavirus tests. CDC cited this reason for the instances of the recovered person testing positive again within the 3 months period. It also said that these people do not transmit the virus to others.

It said that retesting a recovered person within the 3 months period was unnecessary and even though they test positive, they are not a threat as most probably they have leftover traces of the virus.

Further, they added that people with mild to moderate symptoms can be released from the isolation after 10 days and people with severe symptoms can be released after a maximum of 20 days.

The CDC said its new recommendations were based on more than 15 US-based and International published studies that looked at the length of infection, asymptomatic spread, duration of the viral shed, and the risk of spread among several patient groups.

We talked to Dr Vivek Kumar, Medical Officer at Government Doon Medical College Hospital who is handling Coronavirus cases in the region. He said “It depends upon the amount of antibody a person has generated in his/her body to regain symptoms of coronavirus. If the virus has entered the body, it will definitely stay in the body, but it depends upon antibody if the person will show symptoms of coronavirus or not. Also, I have not seen patients of re-infection so far.”

Reports which suggested reinfection

Earlier there have been various researches which have indicated that re-infection in the recovered patient is possible. King’s College London’s research found that levels of antibodies can destroy the virus for three weeks but later it starts declining.

Similar studies were conducted in Munich, Germany. Tests were done on recovered COVID-19 patients, which showed that there was a significant decrease in the number of antibodies present in the recovered patients. The findings coincide with a Chinese study that claims that antibodies in coronavirus patients do not persist in blood.

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