COVID-19: Immunity and recovery explained

In the wake of COVID-19 pandemic ravaging the world, confusion and many questions about it continues to win over debates.

As of April 18th, the pandemic had claimed over 140,000 lives globally while over 2.2 million cases were confirmed.

In Rwanda, 143 cases have been confirmed and 65 patients have recovered, prompting the government to institute a lockdown, effectively restricting people’s movements and delivery of some nonessential services in order to curb the spread of the virus.

However, it has been proven in some countries such as China, the first epicentre of the virus that people can recover from it.

Some patients die but others recover. Some show symptoms but others only carry the virus without symptoms.

To understand human immunity and how the recovery works, Dr Léon Mutesa, a medic benefits and a lecturer at University of Rwanda answers questions regarding immunity and recovery.

Dr Mutesa explained what constitutes immunity, saying that in scientific terms it means antibodies. They are cells that protect the body especially from anti-genes such as viruses.

The specialty about this novel coronavirus is that it penetrates body cells and destroy the anti-bodies very fast.

Are there people who are immune to coronavirus?

Some people have stronger anti-bodies than others. Mutesa explained that older people are more prone to the virus than younger people because their immunity i.e. antibodies are not strong enough to fight the virus.

However, strong immunity is not determined by any demographic criteria. It can be heredity or just intrinsic.

There are no criteria for people with stronger immunity. You can be fit but still weak in the face of the virus. You can also be physically weak but still manage to recover from the virus.

For how long can a person be immune to coronavirus?

For some diseases like polio or chickenpox, immunity is forever. But for coronavirus, it not yet confirmed but it is estimated that a human body can be immune to the virus for 8-10 months.

The 8-10 months’ time frame is not confirmed yet. But some people can hold on as long as 10 months. Studies about that are ongoing.

Do all people show COVID-19 symptoms?

Not all people who contract the virus show symptoms. There are various carriers who spread the virus without falling sick unless they are tested.

Scientifically, they are called symptomatic. They contract the virus and spread it unknowingly because they do not show symptoms.

The latter makes testing an essential factor in the fight against the pandemic because even the ‘symptomatics’ can be traced and treated before they spread the virus further.

What exactly happens when a COVID-19 patient is recovering?

When someone recovers from COVID-19, it simply means that anti-bodies or immunity have dominated anti-genes or the virus. However, it does not mean that the virus is cured forever.

When the patient’s immunity is strong enough to dominate the virus, it takes a few days to recover.

Who dies from coronavirus and who doesn’t?

Older people and those who have chronic diseases are more prone to the virus because their immunity is relatively weaker. Given situations from other countries, older people die more than younger ones. Anyone can die from COVID-19.

Also, coronavirus can be treated and alleviated. It cannot be cured, but with proper treatment one can recover.

Is there a way one can boost their immunity against coronavirus?

The only guaranteed way to prevent from Coronavirus is washing hands frequently and staying indoors.

For immunity, there is no guarantee but it can be boosted through high level of vitamin C intake especially in vegetables and fruits.

Dr. Mutesa called upon Rwandans to only value governments’ preventive measures in place. Wash hands, keep the social distance and stay at home as much as possible.

Key prevention tips

• Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser.

• Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.

• Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.

• Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

• Avoid close contact with people who are sick.

• Avoid unnecessary handshaking if you present clinical signs of the flu-like syndrome.

• Stay home when you are sick.

• Observe general hygiene practices.


This article was first published at The New Times