Health Team

Can you get COVID twice?

Posted December 5, 2020 12:26 a.m. EST
Updated December 7, 2020 5:11 p.m. EST

— As COVID-19 cases surge, should you be concerned about getting the virus twice? And if so, is reinfection worse the second time around?

A UNC doctor has a warning for those who have already recovered from the virus, and a vital message for how to keep yourself and others safe.

“The message I really want people to hear is that if you have had COVID-19, that doesn’t mean that you’re safe from a reinfection. You should still practice social distancing. You should still wash your hands diligently. Wear your face mask everywhere that you go," said Dr. Alexa Mieses Malchuk, an Assistant Professor of Family Medicine at UNC Chapel Hill.

According to her, we are starting to see documented cases of reinfection in the United States and abroad.

She said experts think that the likelihood of you being infected with COVID a second time is very low, but it’s hard to know for certain because documenting those cases of infection can be very challenging.

Are symptoms worse the second time around?

If a patient is reinfected, Malchuk said the data shows a variety in the severity of symptoms.

"The challenging thing about COVID is that everybody as an individual handles the virus a little bit differently. There really is no rule about what a second infection looks like," she said.

To help keep everyone -- including yourself -- safe, she suggests anyone who has recovered from COVID still get a vaccine.

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