Can you catch the coronavirus twice? You'll probably be immune — for some time, at least


Those who recover from the coronavirus are probably not going to catch the illness again, at least in the short term, experts say. But it's unclear how long that immunity will last.

"It is reasonable to predict we will have some immunity. To say you will have lifelong immunity? We just don't know yet, said Frances Lund, professor and chair of the department of microbiology at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. "But I think it's a reasonable conclusion that you will have immunity for the rest of this season."

The key to immunity lies in the antibodies produced by people who have recovered from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

Antibodies are proteins in the bloodstream that attack foreign intruders, such as viruses and bacteria. Those produced in response to the coronavirus may one day help guide public health measures, such as signaling when it is safe for a person to end social distancing; they are also being explored as a treatment for critically ill patients whose own antibodies are not enough to fight off the virus.

More research is needed in both of those areas, but in the meantime, top health officials have expressed confidence that coronavirus antibodies are likely able to prevent a person who had the infection from getting sick with it a second time.

"We don't know that for 100 percent certain because we haven't done the study," Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told "The Daily Show" host Trevor Noah last week. "But I feel really confident that if this virus acts like every other virus that we know, once you get infected, get better, clear the virus, then you will have immunity that will protect you against reinfection."

Whether that protection will be long term depends on a number of factors, experts say.