If you recover from COVID-19, can you get it again?

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Nurse Leah Silver cares for a coronavirus disease patient in the ICU at the University of Washington Medical Center-Montlake during the COVID-19 outbreak in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 24, 2020. Credit: REUTERS/David Ryder/File Photo.

There is no evidence that people who contracted COVID-19 and recovered are immune to a second infection, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

On today’s Daily Dose, Dr. Michael Wilkes, a professor of medicine and global health at UC Davis, says the announcement could be a game changer during the pandemic. 

Before the WHO announcement, many health care workers were operating under the assumption that once someone became infected, they developed antibodies that would protect them in the future, Wilkes says. 

However, WHO didn’t explicitly say these antibodies don’t exist, Wilkes points out. 

How California has fared

A new study of 1300 adult COVID-19 patients in Northern California has also provided more insights to the virus. Its highlights: 

The most common illness patients had before COVID-19 was hypertension, with 44% of testing positive for the condition. It’s one of the most common underlying symptoms of other illnesses, Willkes says. 

About 30% had diabetes during admission to the hospital.

Sixty percent of patients had abnormal chest x-rays. 

Of the patients who required hospitalization, 70% were treated in the general or immediate care ward, while 30% were admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU). 

For those in the ICU, more than 29% required a ventilator, and half died. 

Of those admitted, patients across all age groups required care, and the percentages of young and middle adults were similar to those over 60, Wilkes points out.

He says there’s still a perception that COVID-19 is a disease for older people, and the Northern California study helps disprove it. “It is a disease that affects people of all ages. Proportionately, perhaps [it skews] more elderly. But it is something that we all have to be concerned about.” 

Implications

Wilkes says that people need to be cautious, especially since there is no proof of immunity to COVID-19. 

No scientifically-approved COVID-19 medicines exist, including the hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine treatments previously promoted by President Trump.

The FDA issued a safety warning against the use of both drugs on Friday, stating they could cause “serious heart rhythm problems.” 

Since President Trump’s announcement in March about the anti-malarial drugs, 40,000 doctors prescribed the drug. None had ever prescribed it before. 

Wilkes warns that as the pandemic continues, people will make judgements and actions out of fear, and it will be important to stay informed and admit when something is unknown. 

“We just need to be very careful that we get the evidence and let everybody know when there is evidence that something works or doesn't work,” he says. “But also, be honest when there is no evidence, like is the case with immunity, we just don't know where we stand on that.”

Credits

Guest:
Michael Wilkes - Host of 'Second Opinion'

Host:
Chery Glaser

Producers:
Darrell Satzman, Danielle Chiriguayo, Amy Ta