A healthy Hong Kong man in his 30s is the first person confirmed to have become reinfected with coronavirus, suggesting one exposure to the virus may not provide full immunity the second time around.
But experts say we need to do a stack more research on the virus before reaching any conclusions about potential reinfection.
The New York Times reports a 33-year-old man tested positive for the virus on August 15 after a mandatory airport screening, more than four months after he first fell ill in April.
Researchers from the University of Hong Kong confirmed the man was infected with a separate strain of coronavirus the second time around and was completely asymptomatic during round two.
Speaking to The Times, Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist working out of Yale University, said the findings are a “textbook example” of how viral immunity plays out.
She pointed out that the man’s antibody response appeared to be strong enough to prevent the virus devolving into a full-blown illness, but wasn’t capable of staving off infection entirely.
There’s still a lot of work to be done to understand immunity to coronavirus, how strong it is, and how long it lasts.
Given the latest findings, the researchers called for a hefty vaccine that prevents the disease and infection, and advocated social distancing to limit the virus’ spread.
“Since the immunity can be short lasting after natural infection, vaccination should also be considered for those with one episode of infection,” the Hong Kong researchers announced.
“Patients with previous COVID-19 infection should also comply with epidemiological control measures such as universal masking and social distancing.”
Before spiralling into full-on panic mode about this, it’s also worth mentioning that this is the first confirmed case of reinfection out of roughly 23 million people to have tested positive worldwide.
As always, get tested if you feel ill, socially distance, and wear a mask if you need to.