There are fears globally that it is not impossible to catch the coronavirus twice or more.
This fear became stronger after a woman in her 40s in Osaka, Japan, tested positive for COVID-19 for a second time at the end of February.
Studies and research are still underway to determine if this may be the case but no definite conclusion is valid on the matter yet.
The primary responsibility is building immunity against the virus over catching it more than once.
Dr Amir Khan on aljazeera.com says: “When a pathogen (a foreign infection such as a virus or bacteria) enters the body, the immune system first has to recognise it as alien. There are specific blood cells whose job it is to patrol the body and quickly send out an alert if a new infection is encountered.
This alert stimulates the immune system to start producing very specific antibodies for the infection. This process takes time as a certain level of antibodies need to be produced to overcome the infection.
During this time the virus or bacteria is multiplying, and making you feel unwell as it does so”.
He explained further that it may take a few days or weeks for your body to get to the level of antibodies needed to fight off the infection. And during this period, you are sure to have the symptoms of infection.
The best antidote is the production of antibodies – when enough are produced, the infection is overcome and you start to feel better.
Then your immune system produces what is called memory cells. These memory cells are ready and waiting should the same infection enter your body again in the future.
If that happens, the memory cells are immediately activated to fight and destroy the infection before it has time to take hold and make you unwell again. Then they send much quicker message to prompt your immune system into action.
In this case, your immune system works so quickly you do not feel unwell or even know you have been infected. This is because you now have immunity to that specific infection.
This immunity usually lasts for life – but not always.
Furthermore the doctor expounds thus: “A study done in China looked at whether monkeys who were infected with the coronavirus and developed antibodies to it could be reinfected when exposed a second time. Reassuringly, it found they were immune to it the second time around.
Immunologists agree that more research is needed. It is not clear if immunity from the COVID-19 virus will be lifelong, and data we do have on some other coronaviruses, such as the common cold, show that antibodies only give temporary immunity, usually lasting around three months”.
However, he said many experts are optimistic that people who have recovered are unlikely to be infected with SARS-CoV2 again. This is another name for Covid-19. But more evidence is needed to validate this optimistic claim.
The virus simply hasn’t been around long enough for to conclude that getting it will confer lifelong immunity.
Observing those who have recovered from the virus to see whether the antibodies and immunity they have acquired last or not is one of our hopes.