ORLANDO, Fla. – As the race to get Floridians vaccinated continues, Central Florida health leaders are warning that people who recovered from COVID-19 could still get infected again.
Dr. Tim Hendrix, the medical director of AdventHealth Centra Care, participated in the hospital’s morning briefing on Thursday and said if you had COVID-19 and recovered, you can still get reinfected.
He said he’s seeing that happen in Central Florida.
“We do see people reinfected with COVID-19. People that were infected back in the fall, we’re seeing about five to seven cases a week at Centra Care of people coming in,” Hendrix said.
Hendrix said the immunity you gain after recovering from coronavirus isn’t enough to fully protect you from getting infected again.
“You have some immunity, but it’s not perfect necessarily from a natural infection, so you shouldn’t rely on natural infection,” Hendrix said.
Dr. Michael Teng, an associate professor and virologist at USF Health in Tampa, said the first cases of reinfection across the globe started popping up last spring. He said we may never know how many cases of reinfection there are in the state.
“Obviously, there’s got to be reinfections occurring that people don’t even know about. It’s reasonable to say that we’re having a constant number of people that are getting reinfected with the virus that you can detect,” Teng said.
News 6 asked the Florida Department of Health if they are tracking reinfections and we have not heard back.
Teng said often when someone is reinfected, they experience less symptoms, but he said there are some cases of people having more severe symptoms. He said some people may not even know they’re infected again.
“The problem with that is not that, ‘Oh you’re not getting sick.’ It’s that you’re now producing the virus and now you can transmit it to somebody else,” Teng said.
Teng said people who recover from COVID-19 have a natural immunity, but that doesn’t act as a shield that will protect you from ever getting infected again.
“The thing with immunity is that it does allow you to get infected again, but then it comes up more rapidly the second time,” Teng said. “So you still get infected, but then the immune system comes up more rapidly to take care of the infection.”
Teng adds there are still many unknowns about coronavirus. He said people shouldn’t rely on natural immunity and should get the vaccine.
“What we don’t know is who among the people who have been previously infected, what does it take to get reinfected? Is it the immune response, is it something else? We don’t really know. So what we really want to do is provide the best immunity as possible to everybody,” Teng said.
Hendrix agrees if you had COVID-19, you should get the vaccine.
“Even though you had the infection, get the vaccine when it becomes available to you. Don’t rely on that,” Hendrix said.