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Arizona doctor says contracting COVID-19 twice is possible but rare

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

PHOENIX — An Arizona doctor said getting infected with COVID-19 a second time is rare, but it can happen.

“Currently, only a small number of cases have been shown convincingly to be reinfection,” said Elizabeth Connick, an infectious disease doctor with Banner University Medical Center in Tucson. “I suspect that we’re going to learn that reinfection occurs a lot more frequently.”

She pointed to four reinfection cases that have been studied. In all four, analysis showed the virus was genetically different from the first infection.

Only a few number of reinfection cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to the CDC, a person can continue to test positive for up to three months after they were first diagnosed.

A spokeswoman for the Arizona Department of Health Services told KTAR News 92.3 FM that ADHS will examine potential reinfections of those who test positive for the virus more than 90 days after their initial positive COVID-19 test.

However, it’s unclear how many people in Arizona have tested positive for the virus more than once.

It’s also not clear if symptoms are more severe during the second infection, though some studies suggest that can happen.

Also, it’s unknown who’s more susceptible to getting re-infected with COVID-19. Connick said it’s likely those whose antibodies that protect them from another infection have faded.

“This occurs over time so probably the farther out you are from your infection, the more likely your antibodies may have waned,” she said.

Researchers at the University of Arizona released a study in October that discovered coronavirus antibodies can last up to seven months after a person has recovered from COVID-19. The study examined the production of antibodies from nearly 6,000 people around Arizona.

“With time, we’re going to learn how long you can rely on antibodies to protect you,” Connick said. “But for now it’s really important to do everything we can to break transmission.”

She said even people who’ve gotten vaccinated against COVID-19 should continue to wear a mask and practice social distancing. That’s because they can still get infected with the virus without developing symptoms and spread it to others.

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