The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is suggesting that individuals who have recovered from the novel coronavirus can safely interact with others for three months, according to a recent update from the agency.
On its webpage, the CDC states that people should quarantine if they've been in close contact with someone who has the coronavirus, “excluding people who have had COVID-19 within the past three months.”
Moreover, people who have tested positive for the contagion aren’t required to be tested again for up to three months—as long as symptoms don’t develop again.
The CDC had previously acknowledged that people who have recovered from the coronavirus can test positive for the virus for up to three months.
The new guidance is based on recent studies that have discovered that after three months, there was no evidence of recovered individuals getting infected again by the virus, according to the CDC.
Other recent studies have revealed that there are signs of lasting immunity in those who developed mild coronavirus infections.
These particular studies, which have yet to be peer-reviewed, are indicating that antibodies and immune cells capable of recognizing the novel coronavirus are apparently present months after the initial infection.
The findings could help mollify previous concerns over whether the virus has the ability to trick the immune system.
“This is exactly what you would hope for,” Marion Pepper, an immunologist at the University of Washington who authored one of the new studies, told The New York Times.
“All the pieces are there to have a totally protective immune response.”
Other medical experts said the encouraging data point toward the possibility of eventually achieving herd immunity.
“This is very promising,” Smita Iyer, an immunologist at the University of California, Davis, told The New York Times. “This calls for some optimism about herd immunity, and potentially a vaccine.”
Herd immunity occurs when enough people become immune to a disease, often through vaccination or natural infection, to make its spread unlikely. As a result, the entire community is protected, even those who are not themselves immune, according to Harvard Medical School.
The threshold for herd immunity to the coronavirus is estimated between 60% and 80% of the population.
White House coronavirus advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said recently that it is unlikely the coronavirus will ever be eradicated. It is, however, possible for world leaders and public health officials to work together to bring the virus down to “low levels.”
There are now more than 21.7 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide, including at least 776,000 deaths, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.
Ethen Kim Lieser is a Minneapolis-based Science and Tech Editor who has held posts at Google, The Korea Herald, Lincoln Journal Star, AsianWeek and Arirang TV. Follow or contact him on LinkedIn.