Twice bitten? People who've recovered from coronavirus are likely to relapse

WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, IndiaEdited By: Sonal GeraUpdated: Mar 17, 2020, 05:27 PM IST
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File photo of coronavirus Photograph:(AFP)

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One of the major concerns, more than the contraction of the virus, has been if those who have had it can get it a second time -- and what that means for immunity.

Coronavirus has, since its outbreak in China's Wuhan last year, reached more than 120 countries. The epicentre has now shifted to Europe with death toll in most of the countries of the region crossing a 100.

One of the major concerns, more than the contraction of the virus, has been if those who have had it can get it a second time -- and what that means for immunity.

A few cases around the world have also emerged. The first case was a woman working as a tour bus guide. She was reinfected with the coronavirus, testing positive after having recovered from an earlier infection.

Also, a February 14 article from Caixin, a Beijing, China-based media group was titled '14% of Recovered Covid-19 Patients in Guangdong Tested Positive Again', clearly citing the infection can be contracted twice. A Shanghai-based news portal also reported that one of Wuhan’s makeshift health facilities had issued an emergency notice, stating more discharged patients had been readmitted after falling ill a second time.

To this end, Philip Tierno Jr., Professor of Microbiology and Pathology at NYU School of Medicine, has said, "Once you have the infection, it could remain dormant and with minimal symptoms, and then you can get an exacerbation if it finds its way into the lungs."

Experts say those who have had the virus once will develop some immunity after getting cured, and it is rare to get an infectious disease again. But truth be told, the amount of immunity that one builds up after being exposed to any virus depends on not only virus itself but his/her immune system and its response.

This simply means people who initially recovered from the virus are more likely to relapse, rather than get reinfected. The immune response to Covid-19 is, however, not yet understood.

The World Health Organisation declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a pandemic on March 11.

Its statement said: "In the days and weeks ahead, we expect to see the number of cases, the number of deaths, and the number of affected countries climb even higher. WHO has been assessing this outbreak around the clock and we are deeply concerned both by the alarming levels of spread and severity, and by the alarming levels of inaction. We have therefore made the assessment that COVID-19 can be characterised as a pandemic.

"Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death."


Respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties are the main symptoms. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death.