can I get COVID-19 again
If you have had COVID-19, can you get it again? Yes, COVID-19 reinfection is rare but possible. Learn what symptoms to look for

If you have had COVID-19, you can get it again and infect other people. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), reinfection is rare but possible. Cases of reinfection have so far been low, and reports have shown that symptoms may not be as severe, or there may be no symptoms at all. 

The same is true for people who have been vaccinated. While it is possible to get infected after vaccination, the risk of severe illness or death decreases significantly. So whether you have had COVID-19 in the past or been fully vaccinated, it’s important to continue taking necessary precautions, such as social distancing, handwashing, and wearing masks.

What causes COVID-19?

After the disease outbreak in December 2019, a new strain of coronavirus called severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 or SARS-CoV-2 was identified in Wuhan, China. The infection caused by SARS-CoV-2 is called coronavirus disease 2019 or COVID-19. The virus had spread all over the world and in March 2020, COVID-19 was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Usually, viruses mutate as they infect more people. Several variants of SARS-CoV-2 have been identified and named after the region where they were first discovered. Some of the variants have proven to be more contagious than others, with some being fatal.

How does COVID-19 spread?

  • The virus spreads primarily through droplets of discharge from the nose or saliva when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the droplets are inhaled by a nearby person. The virus spreads between people in close contact within 6 feet.
  • Sometimes, the virus can spread to a person exposed to small droplets or aerosols that stay in the air for several minutes or hours.
  • The virus can also spread if a person touches a surface or object with the virus on it and then touches their mouth, nose or eyes.

What are signs and symptoms of COVID-19?

On average, it may take 5-6 days for symptoms to appear after getting infected with the virus. However, for some people this can vary from 1-14 days.

Common symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Other symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Serious symptoms of COVID-19 include:

Rare symptoms include:

  • Severe neurological complications, such as delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage
  • Reduced consciousness associated with seizures

If you notice any of the above symptoms, seek medical help and get tested to check for COVID-19. 

What are potential complications of COVID-19?

Most people infected with COVID-19 experience mild to moderate respiratory infection and recover without needing any special treatment. Some people may even be asymptomatic. However, older people and those with underlying medical conditions such as diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, cardiovascular disease, and cancer are likely to develop serious complications. 

Potential complications of COVID-19 include:

How to prevent reinfection of COVID-19

Getting vaccinated is the best protection from becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. Even after vaccination, the following precautions should be followed to reduce the risk of reinfection: 

  • Wear a face mask in public, covering the nose and mouth. 
  • Practice social distancing and avoid 6 feet between you and other people.
  • Avoid crowded and poorly ventilated spaces.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
  • Cover your mouth and nose:
    • If wearing a mask: Cough or sneeze into the mask. Change the mask as soon as possible and wash your hands.
    • If not wearing a mask: Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or elbow when coughing or sneezing. Throw away the used tissue and wash your hands immediately.
  • Don’t touch your nose, mouth or face, as coronaviruses can live on surfaces for several hours.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces daily.
  • Be alert for symptoms of COVID-19.

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Medically Reviewed on 8/3/2021
References
World Health Organization. Coronavirus. https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus#tab=tab_1

Cennimo DJ. Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). Medscape. https://emedicine.medscape.com/article/2500114-overview