Reinfection with SARS-CoV-2: Discrete SIR (Susceptible, Infected, Recovered) Modeling Using Empirical Infection Data

Andrew McMahon, Nicole C Robb
JMIR Public Health and Surveillance 2020 November 16, 6 (4): e21168

BACKGROUND: The novel coronavirus SARS-CoV-2, which causes the COVID-19 disease, has resulted in a global pandemic. Since its emergence in December 2019, the virus has infected millions of people, caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands, and resulted in incalculable social and economic damage. Understanding the infectivity and transmission dynamics of the virus is essential to determine how best to reduce mortality while ensuring minimal social restrictions on the lives of the general population. Anecdotal evidence is available, but detailed studies have not yet revealed whether infection with the virus results in immunity.

OBJECTIVE: The objective of this study was to use mathematical modeling to investigate the reinfection frequency of COVID-19.

METHODS: We have used the SIR (Susceptible, Infected, Recovered) framework and random processing based on empirical SARS-CoV-2 infection and fatality data from different regions to calculate the number of reinfections that would be expected to occur if no immunity to the disease occurred.

RESULTS: Our model predicts that cases of reinfection should have been observed by now if primary SARS-CoV-2 infection did not protect individuals from subsequent exposure in the short term; however, no such cases have been documented.

CONCLUSIONS: This work concludes that infection with SARS-CoV-2 provides short-term immunity to reinfection and therefore offers useful insight for serological testing strategies, lockdown easing, and vaccine development.

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