The coronavirus pandemic is making a lot of people feel worried about what the future holds.
Across the world, leaders have been giving people blunt advice about the outlook of the virus. German chancellor Angela Merkel said that around 70 per cent of Germans might contract Covid-19. After weeks of downplaying the virus, Britain’s PM Boris Johnson finally admitted that many families will lose loved ones “before their time”.
But once you’ve contracted coronavirus once, can you get it again?
It has been reported that the British government’s strategy for containing the outbreak is based on the theory of “herd immunity”, where the population becomes immune to the virus through exposure.
But this is presumably based on the belief that you can’t keep getting coronavirus if you’ve already had it once. Often, when the body is infected by a virus, it develops antibodies that help prevent repeat infection. This is how flu vaccination works.
But Dr Peter Jung, an assistant professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Medical School at Houston, told HuffPost that “no one knows” whether you can be re-infected with coronavirus.
No one knows for sure, but most children likely develop at least short-term immunity to the specific coronavirus that causes Covid-19.
But just as the flu can mutate, so could Covid-19, which would make an individual susceptible to reacquiring the infection.
Don’t worry, though, because there’s other experts that think it’s unlikely that Covid-19 can be contracted multiple times by the same person. Stephen Gluckman, an infectious diseases physician at Penn Medicine and the medical director of Penn Global Medicine, says:
Coronaviruses aren’t new, they’ve been around for a long, long time and many species — not just humans — get them. So we know a fair amount about coronaviruses in general.
For the most part, the feeling is once you’ve had a specific coronavirus, you are immune. We don’t have enough data to say that with this coronavirus, but it is likely.
At the moment, given the virus is so new, people are still working out whether re-infection is a threat on the horizon. Dr Nancy Messonnier, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a recent media briefing that because Covid-19 is so new, there is “essentially no immunity against this virus in the population.”
It seems like, as the virus spreads, scientists think this could change.
But as for whether a person can get Covid-19 twice, the answer is: no one knows for sure.