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Immunity after recovery from COVID-19? Yes, but…

Immunity would only last as long as the coronavirus does not mutate.

SAN DIEGO — News 8 viewers have been emailing the station asking an important question: If you get COVID-19 and then recover, are you immune from getting it again?

We spoke to Dr. Robert “Chip” Schooley, an infectious disease specialist at UC San Diego, to get some answers.

So, can recovery result in immunity?

“The evidence we have is that people will be immune after a bout with this virus,” Dr. Schooley said.

But there are few caveats. First of all, you need to completely recover.

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“You should probably wait for about two weeks from the time of your symptom onset to assume you're good to go in terms of coming out of self-isolation,” said Schooley.

Good news: The immunity does not depend on how serious your symptoms were when you were sick.

“We think that people who recover from mild illness are just as protected as people who recover from severe illness,” Schooley said.

Another factor is the strength of your immune system.  If you have an underlying condition that weakens your immune system you may not be protected.

Another key point, immunity may only last one or two years depending on how fast this new coronavirus mutates.  Dr. Schooley says most coronaviruses do mutate over time.

“The other coronaviruses have been in the human population for up to 800 years. Those viruses are different enough in the environment, or around us, that you can get reinfected every two or three years. And that's why you see these infections coming in waves,” he said.

More good news: Two years from now, if a new strain of coronavirus does hit, it probably won't be as devastating.

“You could get reinfected and usually when that happens the disease is less severe,” Schooley said.

In the end, immunity itself can be a big factor in fighting the virus.

“In Africa, that's exactly what they did with the Ebola outbreak. People who had recovered from Ebola infection, health care workers, became extremely important in being able to go back in and take care of their colleagues because they, themselves were no longer at risk,” said Dr. Schooley.

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