Coronavirus: Doctors describe how COVID infection might return after a person contracts the virus

Researchers say antibodies wane after three months, but new findings show that's not the only way the immune system fights COVID-19.
EL MONTE, Calif. (KABC) -- If you contract COVID-19, how likely are you to get it again? Will antibodies prevent you from getting sick again, or if you do, will it be less severe?

The latest science shows antibodies is only one way your body fights infections.

Before 57-year-old Joanne Bueno's husband took her to the emergency room on Easter Sunday, she recalls incessant vomiting and intolerable muscle pain.

"We just drove up to the front. They took me out and they put me in a tent and that's the last I remember," she said.

COVID-19 put the El Monte kidney-transplant recipient in four different hospitals for a grueling 81 days. She asked her doctor, could she get infected again?

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Her husband, David Moreno, said, "We don't know for sure, but the doctor did mention that she is at least immune for at least three months."

Three months is when researchers say coronavirus antibodies wane, but new findings show that's not the only way the immune system fights COVID-19.

"Your immune system is much more complex beyond just the antibodies," said Providence St. Joseph Medical Center Emergency Department physician Dr. Michael Daignault, "The T-cells are the quarterback of the immune system and they can directly kill the virus. Daignault said T-cells also have memory. "They say 'hey we've seen this virus before' and the response is much quicker and much more efficient," he said.

Given all this, scientists say the chances of getting re-infected is highly unlikely. But some do feel like they got it twice. Daignault said in some of his patients the virus may go dormant and then re-emerge.

"It hides out in different parts of your body so it might present initially as headaches. And then the headaches may go away, but you know the virus might not be done with you," he said. "You could have symptoms for weeks to months."

It's important to remember every one's immune system is different. Bueno spent two weeks at Barlow Respiratory Hospital. There she learned how to breathe again and how to walk again.

Bueno said, "I couldn't even take one step. By the time I left Barlow I was take 30, 40 even 50 steps."

She doesn't know if she can get a COVID-19 infection again, but Bueno doesn't want anyone to ever get it at all.

"It's serious," she said. "I don't want anybody to go through it. Wear your mask."
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