Can you get infected with COVID-19 twice? Local woman may be rare case

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- There are still a lot of questions to be answered about COVID-19, including - can you get it twice? One local woman says she has tested positive for coronavirus two times, months apart.

Like many people, 24-year-old Alena Huczko of Aston Township, Pennsylvania didn't believe she would infected once, let alone twice.

"I started getting chills, sweating, had a bad stomach-ache and then when I got home my fever was 103 degrees," she recalled.

Huczko describes her first symptoms back in late March. Days later, she tested positive for COVID-19.

After two weeks isolating at home, she felt better. But then, almost four months later, similar symptoms started.

"I was at work, started getting chills, stomach-ache like the first time," she said.

Again, she got tested and again the result was positive.

Dr. John Zurlo, head of infectious disease division at Jefferson Health in Philadelphia, tells Action News he isn't treating Alena, but reinfection could happen.

"It's conceivable that she's been reinfected, but it's going to be very difficult to know," he said.

Dr. Zurlo says that's because most of the lab tests look for a genetic marker indicating the virus. If it's detected, it's positive.

"(But) that doesn't equate, however, that they have actual infectious virus that is making them sick or could in fact transmit to others," he said.

Some patients remain positive for weeks after infection, but four months is rare.

"I didn't believe I could get it twice, I was hoping I couldn't get it twice because I thought I had the antibodies for it," sald Alena.

But Alena was smart. Despite thinking those antibodies would protect her and others around her, she still wore a mask, kept her distance and practiced precautions.

And Dr. Zurlo says that's what they do in the hospital as well, because we don't know enough yet about what those antibodies mean.

Alena is generally healthy but does have Celiac Disease and she believes that may have played a role. She is now fully recovered from COVID-19 and back to work.
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