Those flouting masks after previous coronavirus infection and assumed immunity can still carry the virus and transmit it to others, doctors say. Reinfection is also possible, though these cases have been far and few between.
Health experts told Fox News that, despite studies, there is still uncertainty over how long immunity lasts after infection. Not to mention, upon reexposure, the virus can linger in airways and then spread to others.
“Most likely if you are infected once then you are more likely to be immune against the infection,” said Dr. Adi Shah, infectious disease expert at the Mayo Clinic. “But immunity against the infection doesn’t mean you cannot carry it.”
“You could still transmit the virus to someone else who does not have this said immunity and that’s why it’s important to wear a mask even if you have been infected once,” Shah explained.
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Like Shah, Dr. Dean Winslow, an infectious disease physician at Stanford Health Care, also pointed out that reinfection is possible.
However, out of millions of cases around the world, “cases of reinfection have been very few and far between,” added Shah.
In late August, Maria Van Kerkhove, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) COVID-19 technical lead, addressed reinfection when the first reported case of reinfection surfaced out of Hong Kong: “It doesn’t mean that it’s happening, you know, a lot,” Van Kerkhove said at the time. “We know that it’s possible. But it is something that we knew could be possible based on our experience with other human coronaviruses.”
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While researchers work for conclusive findings regarding immunity from coronavirus and how long it may last, “wearing a mask shows respect [and] consideration of your fellow Americans,” Winslow said.
In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on Tuesday updated its guidance on coronavirus-related face masks to include protection for the wearer, too. The update takes the federal health agency’s previous stance further, which held that wearing a face mask can lower virus spread to others.
The CDC said early research supports community masking to lower virus spread, particularly when estimates indicate that more than half of transmissions stem from asymptomatic people.
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