AARP Eye Center
As news breaks about a virus strain in Brazil that appears to cause a reinfection of COVID-19, other reports of second infections, including those at a nursing home, are causing concern.
Those cases, at a skilled nursing facility in Kentucky, were detailed in a study released last week in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR). Five of the nursing home's residents had two bouts of COVID-19 within three months. The second time around, their symptoms were more severe, and one resident died.
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Reinfections within 90 days are rare, experts say. But they also note that immunity to the virus can decrease over time, and the risk of reinfection may differ among different people.
The report in the CDC's MMWR also noted that nursing home populations could have factors contributing to such reinfection and short-lived immunity, including older age, comorbidities and their close-quartered living environment.
The fact that the residents’ first infections were either asymptomatic or gave them only mild symptoms, and that they went on to have a more severe second bout of COVID-19, suggests that those initial infections didn't produce “a sufficiently robust immune response to prevent reinfection,” the authors wrote. Older age also tends to limit immune function, they note.
Widespread reinfections are not expected
Bruce Farber, M.D., chief of infectious diseases at Northwell Health in New York, says that the study, while alarming, is too small to convince anyone that such a “nightmare” of widespread reinfection “is going to affect chronic care settings in the future."