SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – One year after coronavirus infected its first person, researchers say there is still a lot we do not know about the virus.
One question: can people who have had the virus contract it again?
More than 11.4 million Americans — including 433,000 Georgians and 21,000 people in the eight-county Coastal Health District — have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Memorial Health’s Associate Chief Medical Officer says there is a very small chance any of them could get it again.
“Initially, we weren’t sure that this was a thing that was possible,” explained Dr. Stephen Thacker. “But there have been really well-described cases where it is clear that someone got the infection twice.”
The first of those cases, he says, was in Nevada.
Initial studies show reinfection happens most often to people who experienced mild or no symptoms the first time around. Doctors do not yet understand why.
Doctors do know, however, that people who are reinfected are more likely to have harsher symptoms and are more likely to require a hospital visit.
Thacker says there is no reason to panic.
“That’s a worrisome prospect for those that have already gone through this once in some form, but I would definitely say that it seems to be a very, very rare experience.”
He says the reason for that is because most people who get the virus are protected by antibodies for around six months or longer.
“It’s probably just a testament to how varied we are as humans in our immune response,” said Thacker. “I think of it as when we use a vaccine, not everyone responds to the first dose because we’re all different in how we’re built and how our body responds to infection.”
Regardless, Thacker is reminding everyone to continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines. Several counties in the Coastal Empire — including Chatham and Liberty Counties — are now considered emerging counties of interest.
Thacker believes COVID-19 fatigue, weather changes and an increase in indoor gatherings may be contributing to a local and national spike in coronavirus cases.