UAE doctors urge caution as global reports emerge on reinfections
More than two million people around the world have been infected with the novel coronavirus since it first surfaced in December 2019, and about a quarter have recovered till date. But does this recovery confer lasting immunity on the recovered?
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This is a question that even the topmost experts around the world do not have an answer for yet. What is clear though is that even recovered patients must practise social distancing and keep up hygiene measures in order to keep themselves and others protected.
“It is imperative that recovered patients continue to follow guidelines set out by local authorities to contain the spread of COVID-19. As we do not know for certain that they cannot be re-infected, we should consider them as at risk as anyone else,” advised Dr Maher Balkis, associate staff physician for infectious diseases at Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi.
“In countries that were first affected by the virus, like China, South Korea and Japan, there have been reports of re-infection. We do not know yet if these were actual re-infections, or if earlier tests that showed the virus had been cleared were unreliable, or even if the later tests were false positives. But we have to be cautious for at least the next three to four months, and take precautions for the rest of the year,” said Dr Jyoti Upadhyay, internal medicine specialist at Aster Hospital Mankhool.
What makes a person immune?
Scientific understanding of immunity to coronaviruses is still limited, However, what is known is that most people infected with SARS in 2002 and 2003, remain protected from recurrent infections for a period of two years, while those who contracted MERS remained protected for about three years.
The coronavirus that causes COVID-19 – Sars-CoV-2 — is said to be most similar to the SARS virus. But it is quite possible that immune responses to it could be maintained for a shorter period.
Marc Lipsitch, a Harvard epidemiologist who consults for the United States’ Centres for Disease Control (CDC) believes immunity in a recovered patient could last for about a year.
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