Disclaimer: At UPMC HealthBeat, we strive to provide the most up-to-date facts in our stories when we publish them. We also make updates to our content as information changes. However, education about COVID-19 can shift quickly based on new data, emerging variants, or other factors. The information in this story was accurate as of its publish date. We also encourage you to visit other reliable websites for updated information, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and your state and local governments.
When you recover from COVID-19, your immune system still provides you with some leftover protection. But how long does that protection last, and is it possible to get COVID-19 twice?
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Can You Get COVID-19 Again?
People who recover from COVID-19 develop antibodies that should protect them from reinfection for a time.
However, immunity does not last forever after recovery. It is not known how long COVID-19 immunity lasts. It is possible to get COVID-19 again after recovering from it.
A study of British health care workers published in January 2021 reported reinfection is rare but possible. The second infection is typically less severe than the first.
COVID-19 variants spreading worldwide also make reinfection possible because they are mutated versions of the coronavirus.
As with other viruses, some reinfections are expected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC is studying many different reinfection factors, including:
- How likely it is to get reinfected.
- How often reinfection happens.
- How soon you can become reinfected after your first infection.
- How severe reinfection cases are.
- Which groups are at higher risk for reinfection.
- What reinfection means for a person’s immunity.
- Whether it’s possible to spread COVID-19 to others when reinfected.
How to Prevent COVID-19 Reinfection
Although natural immunity after recovery should protect you for some time, you can prevent reinfection in other ways.
Should I get vaccinated if I already had COVID-19?
Yes, you should.
Three COVID-19 vaccines are being distributed in the United States. Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson/Janssen (J&J) developed the vaccines. Millions of Americans have received vaccines since December 2020.
Because of the potential of reinfection, you should get the COVID-19 vaccine when it is available to you. If you have a current COVID-19 infection, you should wait until you are no longer contagious to get the vaccine.
Preventing COVID-19 reinfection
In addition to getting the COVID-19 vaccine, the CDC recommends other steps to limit your risk of reinfection.
- Wear a mask: Follow federal, state, and local guidance and laws about wearing a facemask. People over the age of 2 years old who are not fully vaccinated should wear a cloth face covering in public. The mask should cover your nose and mouth and fit snugly beneath your chin. If you are fully vaccinated, you can participate in many activities without a mask unless required to by laws, guidelines, or regulations.
- Keep social distancing: Stay 6 feet away from people not from your household while in public places. Avoid crowds and other situations where it is difficult to maintain 6 feet of distance.
- Maintain good hand hygiene: Wash your hands frequently with soap and water, scrubbing for 20 seconds before rinsing. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 70% alcohol.
For more information about COVID-19, visit UPMC.com/COVID19.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Myths and Facts About COVID-19 Vaccines. Link
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Reinfection With COVID-19. Link
Victoria Jane Hall, et al., Do Antibody Positive Healthcare Workers Have Lower SARS-CoV-2 Infection Rates than Antibody Negative Healthcare Workers? Large Multi-Centre Prospective Cohort Study (The SIREN Study), England: June to November 2020. Link
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