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A case of repeat COVID-19: What does this mean?

2020-07-12

Coronavirus studies by Engin Akyurt via pixabay.com

This report on Vox.com was published on July 12: “My patient caught Covid-19 twice. So long to herd immunity hopes.”  In the report, a doctor in Washington DC describes one of his patients a 50 year old man, who had COVID-19 twice, the first time as a mild illness, the second time more severe.  He had a mild cough and sore throat the first time, three months ago.  The second time, a couple of weeks ago, he had high fever, dyspnea (shortness of breath), and hypoxia (low oxygen levels in the blood.)

In between, he felt well for at least six weeks, and had two negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction, an antigen test for acute infection) tests.  He was exposed to another member of his family (“a young adult”) with the virus.  He was not able to get an antibody test after the first infection, so we don’t know if he had developed antibodies– which makes a big difference.

Other reports of similar cases have occurred, including this one from central New Jersey.  Two patients were reported by a doctor there, including one who had developed antibodies and donated plasma to treat other patients infected by SARS-COV-2.  Apparently both patients were from the same family.  The doctor who made this report also posted a video to Facebook, which I did not consult as I am averse to that particular medium.

We don’t know what these cases of reinfection mean or how common they are.  We don’t know how many people are susceptible to getting sick again.  We do know that laboratory tests of rhesus monkeys showed immunity after repeat challenge with known dosages of the same virus.  The likelihood is that most people will be immune but some will not.  It is also possible that there is more than one strain circulating, although the known mutation that caused increased efficiency of infection (without showing worse infections) apparently had the exact same antigenic characteristics.

After all that has been done to research this virus, there is still much that we don’t know.  The number of cases is rapidly increasing, so rarer complications and more unusual cases are surfacing.  What these things mean will not be revealed for some time.

As to Facebook: it may be a useful tool for making connections with people and exchanging information, but it is also a dangerous time-sucker.  I am averse to being used as a commodity.  I have avoided that platform for the last year.  Other media are available for communicating information and I don’t think I am missing anything by not going there.

 

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