Swedish Medical Center in Seattle. (KIRO 7)
Doctors say it has been confirmed that a patient in the Seattle area was reinfected with COVID-19, only in the third documented case of reinfection in the world. Researchers at the Swedish Medical Center in Seattle are studying what reinfection can tell them about how long immunity lasts and how effective the vaccine can be.
The only other documented second infections are a 35-year-old man in Hong Kong and a 25-year-old man in Reno, Nevada.
In the Seattle case, the patient was about 60 years old, living with nurses, and was hospitalized after being first infected.
About 140 days later, the patient developed very mild symptoms after being infected for the second time, and Goldman said this was encouraging news.
“Most of the reported cases are milder for the second time,” he said. “So even if the immune system has failed to prevent a second infection, it seems to be limiting the severity a second time.”
Goldman said it appears that the antibodies your body develops to an infection work most of the time and can facilitate a second exposure.
“Most of the patients who became infected with COVID recovered and were not re-infected, so this is the second reassuring finding,” he added.
Goldman’s study may help the world better understand how long antibodies to COVID-19 last. Each case of a second infection occurred at least a quarter of a year after recovery from the first.
“Most cases have had four or more months from the first infection to the second, so this could be a turning point,” he said. “Our immunity (may) start to weaken then, but we really don’t know that yet.”
Goldman said there is a slightly different strain of coronavirus than the one that came out of Wuhan, China, in January, and future research will help determine how our immune system needs to react to be safe.
The vaccines now being tested are based on the original COVID-19 virus from China. But the most common global circulating strain is a little different. The different strain is called “D6-14G” and can be even more contagious than the original virus.
“We still have a lot to learn about this virus and the immunity we need to protect ourselves from it,” he said.
Written by KIRO 7 TV reporter Gary Horcher.