BY ELIZABETH HANES, BSN, RNJULY 15, 2020
You may have read reports that some people who recovered from COVID-19 went on to test positive a second time, raising the question: Can you get COVID-19 more than once?
The truth is: We don’t know yet how our immune system responds to this virus. So, as much as we might want to believe that this is a “one-and-done” type of virus, it would be a mistake to assume that getting COVID-19 makes you immune to getting it again.
To achieve natural immunity to a virus, your body must produce large numbers of antibodies (the immune system cells that detect and fight off dangerous intruders like viruses) that last in your system for a long time. Researchers do know for certain that people who get COVID-19 produce antibodies to the virus, and these antibodies do likely provide immunity for some period of time. But we just don’t know how long that immunity lasts.
Researchers who infected rhesus monkeys with SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19) found the monkeys’ natural immunity lasted at least a month. But that doesn’t mean the monkeys’ immunity won’t fade over time – or that the human immune system works the same as a monkey’s. We just don’t know the answers to these questions yet.
Because it may be possible (though not certain or proven) that people could get COVID-19 more than once, you should take precautions to avoid any exposure to the virus, whether you’ve already had it or not. Wear a mask in public, wash your hands thoroughly throughout the day, avoid close contact with other people even if they, too, are wearing a mask. Taking these measures can help you avoid getting COVID-19 once…or twice.