Are you immune to the coronavirus after getting it once?

Day after day it’s coronavirus, coronavirus, coronavirus. We’re washing our hands like crazy, cleaning our houses more than ever before, we’re even making our own hand sanitizer since there’s no more to be had on store shelves. We’re also practicing social distancing as best we can — helped in part by the fact that just about everything seems to be canceled. (Sadly, we’re all caught up on our Netflix binging, and now they tell us the new shows are delayed, too).

What if, though, after all of our precautions, we do happen to come down with coronavirus? Well, it’s not an automatic death sentence. In fact, anyone who’s in reasonable health stands an excellent chance of recovering. But what happens then? Once you do recover from coronavirus, does that mean you can now go out and do whatever you like — even touch your face! — without having to worry, since you’ll be immune to the disease? Sadly, no. Unlike chickenpox, a disease that is said to convey a natural immunity after the first time you get it (although even this isn’t necessarily true, according to the UK’s National Health Service), coronavirus is a disease you can definitely be reinfected with.

Coronavirus may be deadlier the second time around

Business Insider reports that a tour guide in Japan was the first confirmed case of coronavirus reinfection. She became ill in January, spent some time in the hospital, and then apparently recovered. Three weeks later, she was back in the hospital with another coronavirus flareup. An isolated incident? Not hardly. A report from China’s Guangdong province (via ZME Science) showed some 14 percent of coronavirus patients becoming reinfected after recovery.

What’s even worse, according to Chinese doctors, is the fact that a second COVID-19 infection can prove far more serious than the initial disease. A message that was forwarded to Taiwan News by a physician who wished to remain anonymous read: “It’s highly possible to get infected a second time. A few people recovered from [coronavirus] the first time by their own immune system, but the meds they use are damaging their heart tissue, and when they get it the second time, the antibody doesn’t help but makes it worse, and they die a sudden death from heart failure.

Okay, now that’s some scary stuff — not just another coronavirus myth, but the truth. While you don’t have to lock yourself in your bedroom for the duration, still, in the words of Sergeant Phil Esterhaus from Hill Street Blues, “Let’s be careful out there!”

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