Can COVID-19 reinfect patients?

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – As with so many factors of COVID-19, no one can really be sure what this novel coronavirus will do next.

But infectious disease expert, Dr. William Schaffner, doesn’t believe people should panic despite new reports suggesting patients can get reinfected.

“At the moment, I’m not concerned about repeat COVID-19 infections, yet, but my mind is open. Most of them are antidotes from people who think they’ve gotten it twice. But, it hasn’t been scientifically proven,” said Schaffner.

Dr. Robert Mildenhall with TriStar Skyline Medical Center agreed and explained factors to consider before claims are confirmed.

“Number 1, the quality of the test, and the quality of obtaining the specimen [need to be considered]. And 2, we do know for sure that COVID-19 tends to linger as far as the symptoms are concerned,” said Mildenhall.

Which can lead to unexpected results he said, “I have seen a test that has come back positive in patients who appear, to clinically recover.”

Instead, Mildenhall explained, the initial infection may still be silently standing by waiting to wreak havoc.

“Some viruses will lay dormant for a period of time,” explained Mildenhall, “And can be triggered in what we may think of as a “re-infection” but may just be an increased viral load due to stress.”

If COVID-19 proves otherwise, and science confirms re-infections are possible, it would be a devastating blow for researchers depending on the concept of herd immunity.

“It really makes it hard to develop a plan to defend against the virus down the road,” said Mildenhall.”

Doctors also say it’s believed we build antibodies to COVID-19 after infection, but how effective they are or how long they last is still unclear.

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