A researcher at Pitt discusses what a man in Hong Kong being reinfected by coronavirus could mean for immunity.

By: KDKA-TV News Staff

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – A man in Hong Kong returned from a trip to Spain about four-and-a-half months after being diagnosed with COVID-19.

The man recovered from that initial diagnosis but once he was back from Hong Kong, he once again tested positive for COVID-19 but was asymptomatic.

“I am a virologist with expertise in coronaviruses and enteroviruses, and I’ve been curious about reinfections since the beginning of the pandemic,” wrote Megan Freeman, a pediatric infectious disease fellow at the University of Pittsburgh. “Because people infected with SARS-CoV-2 can often test positive for the virus for weeks to months, likely due to the sensitivity of the test and leftover RNA fragments, the only way to really answer the question of reinfection is by sequencing the viral genome at the time of each infection and looking for differences in the genetic code.”

Freeman says that as of now, there is no published peer-reviewed report on the man from Hong Kong but reports say there will be one in the Clinical Infectious Disease journal.

So, after recovering from coronavirus, why did this man not have immunity?

“Immunity to endemic coronaviruses—those that cause symptoms of the common cold—is relatively short-lived, with reinfections occurring even within the same season,” Freeman wrote. “So it isn’t completely surprising that reinfection with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, might be possible.”

With many people recovering from coronavirus across the globe, Freeman still says that’s not an excuse to stop wearing masks in public.

She says her recommendation is to continue to wear masks, wash your hands, and practice social distancing, even after recovery because the potential for reinfection is possible.

To read Freeman’s full report, check it out on the University of Pittsburgh’s PittWire.