FRIDAY, Jan. 15, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Immunity against the new coronavirus can last for at least five months in most people who have been infected, British researchers report.

The Public Health England team analyzed data from months of regular testing of health care workers. They found that a person who has been infected is 83 percent less likely to catch COVID-19 again over five months compared with a person who has not been infected, CBS News reported. The stretch of partial immunity begins when a person first becomes sick. However, the researchers said that even if a previously infected person has immunity, they may still be able to carry the virus and infect others.

“This study has given us the clearest picture to date of the nature of antibody protection against COVID-19 but it is critical people do not misunderstand these early findings,” Susan Hopkins, M.B., B.Ch., senior medical advisor at Public Health England, said in a statement. “We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts. Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.”

The British scientists plan to follow people in the study for a year to see how long immunity lasts, how well the vaccines work, and to figure out whether people who have had the virus can pass it to others. They will also look at whether prior infection with COVID-19 provides any protection against the more contagious variant that has surfaced in that country in recent months, CBS News reported.

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