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Episode #18 - COVID-19 - Immunity after recovery from COVID-19

23 December 2020 | Science conversation

Summary

How long does your immunity last after you recover from COVID-19? Can you get reinfected? Why do you need to continue with preventative measures? Dr Maria Van Kerkhove explains on Science in 5. 

Podcast

                   

Transcript

Vismita Gupta-Smith

If you've recovered from COVID-19, does that mean you're now immune to the disease? Should you continue with precautions like mask wearing, physical distancing, hand-washing and others? Answering these questions and more is Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove. Welcome, Maria.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove

Hi, Vismita. Thanks for having me.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Maria, explain to us what happens inside our body once we recover from COVID-19, as far as immunity is concerned.

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove

When individuals are infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, the virus that causes COVID-19, they develop antibodies a few weeks after infection. We know that individuals who have even severe disease, mild disease, and even asymptomatic infection, do develop these antibodies. Studies are underway to show us how strong this immune response is and for how long these antibodies last. What we understand from these studies — and there are many that are currently underway, so we still don't have a full picture yet — is that these antibodies last for many months, some see some studies showing that they last for six months and possibly longer. But we do have clues from other coronaviruses, that it will not be a lifelong immunity.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Maria, once you recover from COVID-19, should you continue with the precautions, like mask wearing, social distancing and why?

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove

Yes, Vismita. It’s important that everybody still adheres to the public health measures that are outlined in the areas where they live. Part of this is really a show of solidarity with everybody else that is going through this difficult time, but we don't know how long the immune response lasts. So, it is important that we continue to practice physical distancing, we continue to make sure that we have clean hands, we use soap and water or an alcohol-based rub, we wear a mask where appropriate and we take all of the precautions that are outlined in the areas where we live and where we work.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Once you recover from COVID-19, can you get reinfected? What does the science say about that?

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove

Well, as this is a new disease, we're learning more and more about the SARS-CoV-2 virus every day. What we understand is that there are individuals that can be reinfected with this virus, as is common with other viruses. We don't know how often this is happening, but we have a number of instances from countries that have reported reinfection of individuals because they have good lab systems and they're able to do full genome sequencing of the first infection and the subsequent infection. We're trying to learn more about each occurrence of re-infection and what the antibody response was in that individual at the time of the first infection and also the second infection. There's still so much, we need to understand about occurrences of re-infection, how often it is happening and what it means for the individual patient. Is the second infection more severe or less severe? And what does it mean in terms of the antibody response? So, there's still a lot to learn, Vismita.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Maria, what does it mean going forward for people who are currently infected and those who have recovered?

Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove

So Vismita, it means that we still have a lot to learn about this virus. And there are many, many scientists all over the world that are really working hard to better understand this virus and how it infects the human body. For all of those individuals out there who are infected, who are recovering, we wish you well, and we wish you a speedy recovery. For everyone out there, we need to do everything that we can to prevent ourselves from getting infected. And there are many steps, many tools, that we have right now that can prevent us from getting infected and also prevent us if we are infected from spreading it to others. We are in this together and we will get through this together.

Vismita Gupta-Smith

Thank you, Maria. That was Science in 5 today. Remember to share this information with your loved ones and be the source of trusted, scientific information. And as more science and evidence comes through, we will update you through all our channels. Until next time then. Stay safe, stay healthy and stick with science. 

 

 

Speaker key

Vismita   Vismita Gupta-Smith

Maria   Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove

  
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