Aug 24, 2020 - Health

First confirmed coronavirus reinfection reported in Hong Kong

Illustration of an hourglass with the sand in the shape of a virus
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Researchers in Hong Kong say they've confirmed a case of coronavirus reinfection for the first time, the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: A confirmed reinfection would mean that immunity to the virus can be short-lived. As a result, we shouldn't expect any sort of back-to-work magic bullet from any potential source or indicator of immunity — whether that's antibody testing, the use of blood plasma as a treatment, or perhaps even a vaccine.

  • At the same time, researchers do not know how big of a problem reinfection is likely to be — how common it is, who's most susceptible to it, or whether reinfections are any more or less dangerous than initial infections.
  • They had already suspected it could occur, but hadn't confirmed it with thorough testing until now.
  • A young, healthy patient contracted the virus for a second time roughly four months after recovering from it. The patient experienced only moderate symptoms the first time, and no symptoms the second time.

The bottom line: All of the public health and public policy responses to the virus depend on our scientific understanding of how it works — and we're still figuring that part out.

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