By Frank Long, MS, Editorial Director
The question about whether COVID-19 can be contracted twice appears to have been answered. News broke Monday, August 24, that a 33-year-old man living in Hong Kong had been reinfected with a coronavirus strain that had a distinctly different genetic signature than the virus that caused his original infection.
Reinfection in this case took approximately four and one-half months, according to Dr. Kelvin Kai-Want To in an email he reportedly sent to CNN.
Experts Look for Meaning
Disease experts across the globe are weighing in about what the findings mean for long-term immunity. Dr. Paul Hunter, a professor in medicine at the University of East Anglia’s Norwich School of Medicine in Britain, says the reported reinfection should not be surprising and that immunity to COVID-19 is unlikely to be permanent.
Similarly, the World Health Organization’s Maria Van Kerkhove says immunity may wane over time but urged that “we need to not jump to any conclusions.”
Not All Gloom and Doom
One possible bright spot was underscored by Dr. Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center and professor of pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadephia. Offit noted that the reinfected man from Hong Kong was asymptomatic with COVID-19, suggesting that after an effective initial vaccination any subsequent reinfections might also be asymptomatic.
That sentiment was echoed by Akiko Kawasaki at Yale School of Medicine in a Twitter post:
“Second infection was asymptomatic. While immunity was not enough to block reinfection, it protected the person from disease. Patient had no detectable antibody at the time of reinfection but developed detectable antibody after reinfection. This is encouraging.”—Akiko Kawasaki
More details about the reinfection and comment from the disease experts appears in a report at www.CNN.com.