A new Public Health England (PHE) study has found that past coronavirus infection provides some immunity but people may still carry and transmit the virus
According to the SIREN study by Public Health England (PHE) people infected with COVID-19 are likely to be immune for at least 5 months, however, experts have warned that those with immunity may still be able to carry the virus in their nose and throat and transmit it to others.
PHE has been regularly testing tens of thousands of health care workers across the UK since June for new COVID-19 infections as well as the presence of antibodies.
Between 18th June and 24th November, scientists identified 44 potential reinfections out of 6,614 participants who had tested positive for antibodies. This represents an 83% rate of protection from reinfection.
Study leaders are clear that this first report provides no evidence of immune responses from vaccines and the SIREN study will continue to assess whether protection may last for longer, however, people who contracted the disease in the first wave may now be vulnerable to catching it again.
Professor Susan Hopkins, Senior Medical Advisor at Public Health England and the SIREN study lead said:
“This study has given us the clearest picture to date of the nature of antibody protection against COVID-19 but it is critical people do not misunderstand these early findings.
“We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.
“This means even if you believe you already had the disease and are protected, you can be reassured it is highly unlikely you will develop severe infections but there is still a risk that you could acquire an infection and transmit to others. Now more than ever it is vital we all stay at home to protect our health service and save lives.
“We are immensely grateful to our colleagues in the NHS for giving up their time to volunteer, and whose continued participation at a time of great”
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