Once you have been infected by the SARS-CoV-2 virus, your body develops antibodies as an immune response to fight the infection. Antibodies typically appear a few weeks after the infection regardless of whether it was mild, severe or even asymptomatic.
After you recover from a virus, your immune system retains a memory of it. That means that if you get infected again, proteins and immune cells in your body can recognize and kill the virus, protecting you from the disease and reducing its severity.
Long-term immune system components include:
- Antibodies, which recognize and then neutralize foreign substances like viruses.
- T cells, which help recognize and kill pathogens.
- B cells, which produce more antibodies when your body needs them
While these components have been found in people who recover from COVID-19, it’s unclear how long the immune response lasts.
How long does immunity last after you recover from COVID-19?
Research is still under way to help scientists understand how long immunity lasts and how much protection it provides against infection.
Most studies have suggested that after a person has recovered from COVID-19, the antibodies may last for several months (six months or even longer).
How do you get tested for COVID-19 antibodies?
Antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 can be detected through a COVID-19 serology test. This is a simple procedure that involves collecting a blood sample and sending it to a lab for testing. Depending on the lab’s workload, results may be available the same day or within a few days.
The presence or absence of antibodies does not indicate with certainty whether you have a COVID-19 infection or not. Since COVID-19 antibodies may appear 2-3 weeks after infection, a serology test that is performed too early may not have accurate results.
Detection of the antibodies against the virus may help you determine whether you can donate your plasma (convalescent plasma) to other people with COVID-19 as part of their treatment.
Do you need to follow precautions even after you recover from COVID-19?
Because COVID-19 is a new disease, researchers are unclear how many times a person can be reinfected with the virus. Data from several countries suggests that although rare, reinfection with SARS-CoV-2 can occur.
That’s why it’s important to continue following public health guidelines such as physical distancing, wearing masks, washing hands and using alcohol-based hand sanitizers. These measures aren’t just an empty show of solidarity. They are essential for your protection, since it is unclear how long immunity against COVID-19 lasts.
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