A 25-year-old man was infected with COVID-19 twice earlier this year. Scientists in Nevada confirmed the man as the first case of reinfection in the United States and the fifth confirmed reinfection case in the world, NPR reports.
USA Today reports that the man has received care but now his case raises more questions, including how long after can a person be vulnerable to catching the virus again and if the second case different or worse than the first. Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee, called the reinfection a “yellow caution light.”
Dr. Paul Offit, an infectious disease expert at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said he’s not surprised at all that people get infected twice from the respiratory disease, as a one-time infection of COVID-19 does not guarantee lifelong immunity. The man who hails from Washoe County, Nevada had no previous health conditions other than the first coronavirus infection. “There’s hardly an infectious disease doctor in the country who hasn’t encountered a patient who thinks they’ve had a second infection,” he said. “Whether that’s true or not, we don’t know. There are lots of respiratory infections out there.”
The man was infected with coronavirus the second time six weeks after the first case. He originally tested positive for the virus in April and his symptoms included a cough and nausea. He received and tested negative for the virus in May. By the end of May, he was back in urgent care with similar symptoms including fever, cough and dizziness. He tested positive again in June and later went to the hospital. “The second infection was symptomatically more severe than the first,” the authors of the case study wrote in the medical journal The Lancet.
There have been at least 22 documented cases of reinfection around the globe since the beginning of the pandemic. However, there are no clear details on exactly how many cases there actually have been, especially among people who do not or did not know they were infected. “It could be a one in a million event, we don’t know,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University and an investigator with the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, who wrote a commentary with the study, USA Today reports.