MU Health expert says it’s possible to get COVID twice

Joplin Area Coronavirus

COLUMBIA, MO. — The state of Missouri is reporting another 1,200 new cases of COVID-19 and two new deaths within the past 24 hours.

As the numbers continue to grow, we wanted to ask the experts why use a nasal swab to test for the virus and if you’ve already had it, can you get it again?

MU Health Care Infectious Disease Expert Dr. Hariharan Regunath said it is possible to get the virus again once you’ve already contracted it.

“Influenza we get yearly vaccinations, so why do we have yearly vaccinations why are we getting influenza again?,” Regunath said. “It’s because of the changes in the viral structure and the proteins on the surface.”

He said within the first three months after you’ve recovered from the COVID-19, it’s not likely you’ll get it again, but after those 90 days your chances of being reinfected are increased.

“The CDC’s recommendation is that within 90 days it is less likely that you are going to develop reinfection again,” Regunath said. “Beyond 90 days if you have developed antibodies that don’t last beyond 90 days there’s a chance that you can get reinfected with the same strain.”

COVID-19 has infected nearly 20 million Americas since the start of the pandemic. Most of the people tested are given a nasal swab.

“The swab samples directly at the spot where the virus has presented the maximum amount of the concentration in your body,” Regunath said. “It’s the same swab for influenza testing. It not only detects influenza but it can detect a variety of other pathogens in the lower respiratory track.”

He said the best way to detect if you have the virus is with a nose swab.

“In regards to sampling, I don’t see any that we would change,” Regunath said. “Just like how it stayed for influenza testing, this will probably stay the same for years.”

Regunath spends most of his time in the ICU with critically ill COVID-19 patients.

“For inpatients if they are hospitalized in the ICU, we can collect samples from deep inside their lungs,” Regunath said. “You can see that in the beginning there were a lot of uncertainties but now we have some answers at least in the form of treatment.”

He said the nose swab is not the only test there is for COVID-19.

“These samples that we collect from the throat, from deep inside the nose and just the anterior of the front part of the nose, all of them are called upper airway samples,” Regunath said.

Besides those three tests, he said there’s really no other good way to test for the virus.

“Because the yield in blood, urine, stool and all of the other bodily fluids is pretty low,” Regunath said.

Regunath said recovery is different for each person who has the virus.

“When we get a viral infection, it typically takes a week or longer or depending on the severity of the illness how long you take to recover,” Regunath said. “Recovery is based on your body’s ability to mount an immune response no matter if you use a antiviral or not. Ultimately your body has to generate some sort of immunity for you to help recover from that infection.”

Once you have recovered from COVID-19, Regunath said you should donate plasma.

“The antibodies from someone else, if we give it to a person who has not yet developed antibodies hopefully it will enhance their immunity and enhance their recover,” Regunath said.

He said the plasma is then given to a person who has the same blood type as the donation.

Regunath believes the spread of the virus is due to worldwide travel.

“That probably played a significant role in transmitting this virus in pandemic proportions. Before we could contain it, it had already spread,” Regunath said. “I’m not surprised by this, but at the same time I’m perplexed by the severity of the proportions in which we are seeing severe manifestations.”

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