Mailbox: what happens if I inhale coronavirus again?

30 June 2020


A graphic showing a face mid-cough and some virus particles.



Although I have had the virus, can I pick it up again, and not get infected myself but infect other people? What will the virus do in my body if I inhale it again?


Welcome to the mailbox - and this week, Chris Smith tackled this question from listener Alice, a hospital worker...

Chris - Alice, as far as we know at the moment, once you’ve had the coronavirus you can’t be reinfected, at least in the short term. So if you inhale a stream of virus particles, the immune memory from your previous encounter will protect you. And if you can’t catch it, you can’t give it to someone else.

But what we don’t know is how long that immune memory will last. What’s got researchers worried is that infections with other members of the coronavirus family - that cause colds in winter but otherwise work very similarly to the covid coronavirus - don’t produce long term immunity.

So, in summary: after you’ve been infected, you’re COVID-safe in the short term, over weeks to months, to yourself and to others. But what happens long term, over months to years, is unknown for now.


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