The man’s infections happened about six weeks apart and his second case was more severe, requiring hospitalization

By Julie Mazziotta
October 13, 2020 01:37 PM
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A 25-year-old man in Nevada was infected with COVID-19 twice, scientists confirmed, marking the first definite case of reinfection in the U.S. and the fifth worldwide.

The resident from Washoe County, who had no history of preexisting conditions or known immune disorders, first tested positive for COVID-19 on April 18 and experienced mild symptoms, including fever, dizziness and coughing.

His symptoms abated and he tested negative twice in May, but about six weeks after his first infection, he started feeling sick again. The man went to an urgent care center at the end of May, again dealing with fever, dizziness and coughing, and tested positive in early June.

The man’s second infection “was symptomatically more severe than the first,” wrote the scientists who studied his case for a study published in the journal Lancet, and he needed to be hospitalized for shortness of breath. He has since recovered and returned home from the hospital.

There have been five confirmed cases of COVID-19 reinfection in other countries and anecdotal cases in the U.S., but this is the first definite American case. It emphasizes that immunity from COVID-19 is not certain, and even those who have recovered from the virus are at risk of contracting it again.

The scientists said that the Nevada man contracted COVID-19 on two separate occasions, and confirmed that his second illness was not the original infection coming back again. His two infections had “significant differences” in their genetic codes.

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“These findings suggest that the patient was infected by SARS-CoV-2 on two separate occasions by a genetically distinct virus. Thus, previous exposure to SARS-CoV-2 might not guarantee total immunity in all cases,” the study authors wrote.

Still, cases of reinfection are rare, and current research shows that the majority of people develop antibodies that should help them avoid reinfection, or at least have a better immune response to fight the virus.

The study authors said that their findings from this man’s case show that everyone, regardless of if they have already had COVID-19, should continue wearing masks, hand washing and social distancing.

“All individuals, whether previously diagnosed with COVID-19 or not, should take identical precautions to avoid infection with SARS-CoV-2,” they said.

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