Human antibodies developed after being infected with COVID-19 have always been a subject of debate about how long they last and whether a person who has recovered from an infection can contract the virus again. Even if a safe and effective vaccine is found, would it be able to provide long-term immunity in vaccinated people? This doubt permeates even the vaccine development process. First confirmed case of COVID-19 reinfection in Hong Kong confirms this. In late March 2020, a 33-year-old Hong Kong man was diagnosed with COVID-19 and recovered by the beginning of April. After a trip to Spain in August, he returned to Hong Kong and was again tested positive at the airport. He was symptomatic in the first infection, but asymptomatic in the second.
It was discovered that the patient had been infected twice with the same strain of SARS-CoV-2 in Hong Kong, but the second time he was infected with a different strain in Europe, possibly because of the second wave of SARS in Europe. A more milder strain was discovered, leading scientists to believe that a repeat infection with Coronavirus, which is thought to be extremely rare, will result in a milder illness due to a person’s built-up immunity from the first infection. However, research at this point is inconclusive. Experts largely dismissed earlier cases of suspected reinfections as a result of the residual viral load in the patients. However, the case in Hong Kong is the first time that reinfection has been confirmed.
Almost simultaneously with Hong Kong, cases of reinfection have emerged in Europe and India. In Belgium, a woman was found to be positive once more, and in the Netherlands, an elderly person contracted the virus once more. The cases have been confirmed by virologists in each country. Also in India, the states of Gujarat and Telangana have been linked to possible recurrences. In Ahmedabad, a woman tested positive a second time, and in Telangana, two reinfections were reported. All of these cases are currently being investigated.
However, despite their assurances that COVID-19 reinfections aren’t a cause for alarm, scientists and experts aren’t willing to rule out the possibilities or implications of this phenomenon: that COVID-19 can persist in humans like a cold flu and that the winter season could prompt a stronger resurgence; the fact that on average 3-4 months are seen between infections in these cases, and the duration of natural immunity develops during this time. A mutated Coronavirus strain that is ten times more infectious than the current ones has also been reported in Malaysia, adding insult to injury. Apart from that, the likely virulence of different virus strains that invade different countries is still unknown.
As a result, scientists from all over the world are working around the clock to discover as much as they can about the deadly virus in the shortest amount of time possible, as the world grapples with the gravest crisis in human history. Global economic collapse, educational crisis, social and cultural upheaval are all possible outcomes of the pandemic currently spreading across the globe. Because there is no going back to the normalcy that humans are used to, the World Health Organization has issued a strong warning that countries must implement long-term strategies and measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. Right now, the only hope is the rapid development of a vaccine that is both safe and effective enough to provide long-term immunity.
As a journalist, Chinmay Chakravarty has more than two decades of experience in a wide range of creative endeavours including journalistic writing, film script writing, film dubbing, video and multimedia productions, international film festival management, and book and journal editing. Proficient in these related fields of professional service provision. Former Indian Information Service officer who retired in November 2019 from the position of director of the Press Information Bureau in Kolkata. In 2017, he self-published his debut book, Laugh and Let Laugh.