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Recovered from COVID-19? 3 things to know

I have recovered from COVID, now what? image
Thousands of people a day are testing positive for COVID-19. As more people recover from the infection, they may have a variety of questions.

Editor’s note: This article was published on November 18, 2020. COVID-19 information and recommendations are subject to change. For the most up-to-date information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website or view our most recent COVID-19 blog posts.

Thousands of people a day are testing positive for COVID-19 as the pandemic surges in Wisconsin and across the U.S. The good news is that most people recover from the infection, however, many have questions about their post-COVID-19 recovery.

Can I get COVID-19 again?

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, cases of reinfection with COVID-19 have been reported, but remain rare.​

In general, reinfection means a person was infected (got sick) once, recovered, and then later became infected again. Based on what we know from similar viruses, some reinfections are expected.

We are still learning more about COVID-19. The duration of immunity is not yet understood. Other human coronaviruses cause common cold symptoms, and people can become re-infected after several months. Immunity to COVID-19 might last longer, but it’s too early to know for sure.

Ongoing COVID-19 studies will help us understand the likelihood of reinfection, who is at risk of reinfection and the effect on immunity.

What are the long-term effects of COVID-19?

Scientists and researchers are learning that many organs besides the lungs are affected by COVID-19 and the virus can affect someone’s health in many ways.

One of the health effects of concern relates to COVID-19 and the heart. Heart conditions associated with COVID-19 include inflammation and damage to the heart muscle itself, also known as myocarditis, or inflammation of the covering of the heart, also known as pericarditis. These conditions can occur by themselves or in combination.

Heart damage may be an important part of severe disease and death from COVID-19, especially in older people with underlying illness. Heart damage like this also might explain some frequently reported long-term symptoms like shortness of breath, chest pain and heart palpitations.

The risk of heart damage may not be limited to older and middle-aged adults. For example, young adults with COVID-19, including athletes, also can suffer from myocarditis. Severe heart damage has occurred in young, healthy people, but is rare.

With special imaging tests, more cases showing the mild effects of COVID-19 on the heart may be diagnosed, including in younger people with mild or minimal symptoms. However, the long-term significance of these mild effects on the heart are unknown.

When a person recovers from COVID-19, should they wear a facemask in public?

Yes. It is recommended that all persons, with a few exceptions, wear cloth face coverings in public. The primary purpose of cloth face coverings is to limit transmission of COVID-19 from infected persons who may be infectious but do not have clinical symptoms of illness or may have early or mild symptoms that they do not recognize.

Cloth face coverings may provide reassurance to others in public settings and be a reminder of the need to maintain social distancing.

There is hope for an effective Covid-19 vaccine in 2021. In the meantime, the holiday season is approaching. Keep safe by wearing a mask, frequently washing your hands, helping public health contact tracers if asked and avoiding indoor gatherings.

12 responses to “Recovered from COVID-19? 3 things to know”

  1. Shirley burt

    two of my friends (80 yrs & over) & are caregivers of husbands that older have been told that the husbands could receive through the VA the Covid-19 shot. The caregivers will not receive one. the question is why not? The older , often demented, spouse can't take care of them.

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hi Shirley,

      We are not quite clear on the rules regarding vaccination at the VA, however in the State of Wisconsin, health care organizations are currently vaccinating health care workers, emergency responders and residents of long-term care facilities. These health care organizations must follow the lead of the state in regards to who is vaccinated. So your friends would be vaccinated in whichever phase they would be eligible for.


  2. April Schreiber

    My daughter tested positive for Covid-19 while on vacation in Texas. She tested positive on Tuesday, got on a plane to fly back to Wisconsin on Saturday and is staying home for 14 days. When is a person contagious to others?

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hello April,

      According to the CDC: A person can be around others after:
      • 10 days since symptoms first appeared (or when you tested positive if you are asymptomatic) AND
      • 24 hours with no fever without the use of a fever reducing medications AND
      • Other symptoms are improving*

      * Loss of taste and smell can persist for weeks or even months and does not delay the end of isolation.

      However, if someone is considered to have a severely weakened immune system (considered immunocompromised) due to health conditions or medications, they may need to isolate for longer than 10 days and up to 20 days. In these situations it would be best to consult healthcare providers to determine when they are no longer contagious to others.

      Please keep in mind that in most situations re-testing someone to see if they are no longer contagious is not recommended. Due to the nature of the highly sensitive tests used, they may detect viral particles that are not capable of causing illness which some people can shed for weeks, up to months. The best indicator in most situations is to follow the symptom based strategy outlined above.

  3. James Thomas

    Why will Marshfield clinic not do Covid anti body tests?

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hi James,

      Marshfield Clinic is able to complete COVID antibody testing, however, this application is best utilized for specific indications and has some limitations. Antibody tests should not be used to:
      • Establish the presence or absence of COVID-19 by itself. Antibodies may not be present among those early in their illness or some people may never develop detectable antibodies following infection.
      • Determine someone’s “immune status”. At this time, not enough is known about “COVID immunity” and further research is needed to determine the durability, duration, or even presence of immunity following a COVID-19 infection

      Also, because not enough is known about COVID immunity, we encourage serology testing to support epidemiologic studies and for surveillance purposes, as well as to identify potential convalescent plasma donors.

      Providers may order the COVID antibody tests following the appropriate indications and based off of their clinical expertise.

      Hope that helps.

  4. Carol Jackson

    How long during infection and after recovery can the infected person transmit the disease. Or to rephrase, what happens to the virus in the body of an infected person after that person is no longer affected by it?

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hello Carol – thank you for reaching out,

      In most people whom are not considered to be immune suppressed due to medical condition or medication, they are capable of transmitting the illness for 10 days following the first symptoms (or 10 days after the first positive test if asymptomatic). For those individuals who are considered immunosuppressed, they can potentially transmit the virus for up to 20 days. When we considered someone “recovered” it means they are no longer in isolation and capable of transmitting the virus. It is possible that some lingering symptoms such as loss of taste and smell can occur for weeks to months after recovery, but does not indicate that someone is capable of still transmitting the illness.

      Thank you.

  5. Margaret Poisson.

    Any information on how long your loss of taste and smell will continue?

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hello Margaret,

      Unfortunately loss of taste and smell can persist for weeks or months after an individual is considered recovered. It is not currently known why some people have a return of their sense of smell and/or taste, and others don’t, nor why some people may not lose their sense of smell/taste at all while others do and therefore is hard to predict when it will return. Continued research into this unique symptom continues.

      Thank you.

  6. Rhonda Kohout

    Please explain the difference between a person being tested positive and a person active with Covid-19. When I watch the pandemic totals announced on TV they announce both totals. Thank You for explaining the possibility of getting Covid a 2nd time.

    1. Jacob Zipperer

      Hello Rhonda,

      When speaking about Wisconsin data specifically, news outlets all report the same data from the Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS). The Wisconsin DHS uses several different definitions to describe the cases such as “confirmed”, “active”, and “Recovered.

      • “Confirmed” cases are those individuals who have a positive result from a diagnostic confirmatory COVID test that is specific to detecting genetic material of the COVID-19 virus. Individuals who test “positive” via antibody tests or positive antigen tests are not included in this number. “Confirmed” is often utilized to encompass a large amount of data and display the “overall” number of cases over a period of time.
      • “Active” cases are confirmed cases in which were diagnosed in the last 30 days and are not known to have died and do not meet the below definition of “recovered”.
      • “Recovered” cases are confirmed cases who are currently alive based on the Wisconsin State Vital Records system, and either have documentation of resolved symptoms, been released from public health isolation, and/or are 30 days since their symptom onset or diagnosis.

      Hope that helps.

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