With new variants of the coronavirus emerging across the U.S. and many in Illinois still awaiting their chance to receive the vaccine, some are wondering if there's a risk of contracting COVID twice.
As part of its live Q&A with medical experts to address common questions surrounding the vaccine, NBC 5 asked Dr. Emily Landon, executive medical director of Infection Control and Prevention at University of Chicago Medicine about the risks of re-infection.
"Well, the answer is unfortunately yes," Landon said during the "Vaccinated State" panel Thursday. "Now most people are not going to get COVID-19 a second time, but some people are at risk of that."
According to Landon, people who experience reinfection likely won't get for a second time within the first 90 to 180 days of their first infection, "but that doesn't mean that you shouldn't be extra careful."
Landon added that some of the newer variants currently circulating in the U.S. "are more likely to cause recurrent disease."
Already in Illinois, cases of newer variants first reported in the U.K. and South Africa have been reported.
The Illinois Department of Public Health revealed last week that the first case of the coronavirus variant B.1.351, first identified in South Africa, was found in the state. The first known Illinois case of the more contagious U.K. strain was announced by health officials on Jan. 15.
A third variant out of Brazil, called P.1, has also been detected in the U.S.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency is closely monitoring emerging variants that "have mutations in the virus genome that alter the characteristics and cause the virus to act differently in ways that are significant to public health." The agency said the current variants "spread more easily and quickly than other variants."
The CDC notes, however, that "genetic mutations are expected, and some variants can spread and become predominant while others subside," but studies so far suggest that antibodies from the current coronavirus vaccines in the U.S. "recognize these variants."
"Some of the newer variants are more likely to cause disease in people, are more likely to cause recurrent disease - they can happen in people who've had COVID before," Landon told NBC 5. "And so it's really important that everyone get the vaccine. It really will boost your immunity, even if you've had COVID before. And that's one way you can combat and try and avoid getting COVID again."