Hong Kong: A 33-year-old man was infected for second time with the coronavirus more than four months after his first spell, the first documented case of so-called reinfection, researchers in Hong Kong reported.
The finding was not unexpected, especially given the millions of people who have been infected worldwide, experts said.
“The second infection was completely asymptomatic — his immune response prevented the disease from getting worse,” said Akiko Iwasaki, an immunologist at Yale University who was not involved with the work but reviewed the report at The New York Times’s request. “It’s kind of a textbook example of how immunity should work.”
“People who do not have symptoms may still spread the virus to others, however, underscoring the importance of vaccines,” Dr. Iwasaki said. In the man’s case, she added, natural infection created immunity that prevented disease but not reinfection.”
“There is no need to be alarmed immensely over the reinfection case of COVID-19 reported in Hong Kong, but at the same time maintained that it is not yet known how long the immunity lasts in case of coronavirus.,” said the apex health research body, ICMR.
At a press briefing, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) Director-General Balram Bhargava said the Hong Kong case is a stray example and the reinfection can depend upon various factors.
“We have read with interest the reports of reinfection in one case in Hong Kong. We are learning more and more about the disease as we go ahead. It can depend on several factors, one can be related to the patient itself, how is his immunity, how was his immune status, was it compromised. It can also depend upon the virus, whether the virus has mutated or turned virulent,” he said.
Citing the example of measles, he said once it affects, it gives lifelong immunity. But rarely does one can get the measles a second time.
“Similarly, this is a stray example, but for this disease, we are trying to find out. We need to find out how long the immunity lasts. We need to closely follow it up, but at the same time we don’t need to be alarmed immensely about it,” Bhargava said.