A mild case of COVID-19? Here’s how long your immunity will last

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Many people who get COVID-19 have mild symptoms. If you are among this group, count yourself lucky.

But does having a minor illness mean you’ll have less protection from the coronavirus in the future?

University of Michigan researchers recently put this question to the test, and discovered some good news: Most patients who develop a mild case of COVID-19 make antibodies that protect them from reinfection for up to six months.

For the study, published in the scientific journal Microbiology Spectrum, researchers looked at about 130 patients who had been confirmed to have COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

While three of these patients were hospitalized, the rest received treatment on an outpatient basis and reported relatively mild symptoms such as headaches, chills, and loss of taste or smell.

The researchers looked at patients three to six months after their initial infection and found that about 90% of the participants produced antibody responses. All but one of the participants had stable antibody levels when tested at follow-up.

The study found that the ability of the antibodies to reduce the risk of reinfection remained as strong at six months as it was at three months.

The researchers concluded that despite concerns that only those with severe COVID-19 produce strong antibody responses to infection, their study discovered that those with mild cases of the disease make and maintain antibodies.

In a press release, Dr. James Baker Jr., first author of the paper and founding director of the Mary H. Weiser Center for Food Allergy at Michigan Medicine, said:

While some studies have indicated that antibodies against COVID-19 diminish over time, these findings provide strong potential evidence for the long-term immunity of those who produce an immune response to mild infection. To our knowledge, this is the first prospective study demonstrating this clinically significant recurrence risk in this specific population.”

However, the researchers note that their published research was conducted between March 2020 and February 2021, before the delta variant became the dominant strain of COVID-19 in the United States.

They also noted that their findings are not a reason not to vaccinate someone who has never been vaccinated, although people with COVID-19 can delay vaccination for 90 days after their illness is over.

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