An infectious disease expert has said COVID-19 reinfections “can happen” just like the common cold and when immunity to the coronavirus wanes.
“This can happen. We know people get the cold several times, and we also know that immunity to the virus can wane after a few months,” Dr. Edsel Salvana told CNN Philippines on Tuesday.
Hong Kong reported its first case of COVID reinfection on August 25.
The 33-year-old Hong Kong resident reportedly tested positive anew four months after he first contracted the disease.
Salvana noted that the man who was reinfected was “asymptomatic” which, he said, is good news.
“This means that the antibodies that were generated by the first infection may have been able to neutralize the virus. It’s just that there might have been still enough virus that was detected by the second test,” he said.
When asked if a second or third infection will be less severe, Salvana said: “it’s still too early to draw conclusions.”
Salvana said there are a lot of factors that affect the severity of infection like a person's age and if they have other illnesses.
“As for being infectious, it depends on the person. If your antibody response is really really strong, it might actually neutralize all the virus,” he said.
The medical expert said reinfection “could be” happening in the country, but it’s still "very difficult" to tell.
“There are other reasons why it might look like a reinfection but it might just be a relapse or the first test which was asymptomatic might have been a false positive test,” he said.
“It's very very important that we look at the scientific evidence before we draw conclusions so we can come up with the right actions afterwards,” he added.
The COVID-19 reinfection reported in Hong Kong also raised doubts on vaccines being developed for COVID as researchers noted that “immunity for COVID infection is not lifelong.”
Salvana said he remains optimistic that vaccines will work.
“The fact that there are antibodies being generated and we know that there are a lot of people that are actually getting better on their own makes me optimistic,” he said. (With a report from AFP)