Anxiety rises among COVID-19 survivors as Seattle man is confirmed to have caught virus twice

A Seattle man is likely feeling very lucky after officially surviving COVID-19 twice. His case is only the third case in the United States where doctors confirmed reinfection.

Doctors at Swedish Medical Hospital say the patient is a man in his 60’s who lives in a nursing home contracted the virus again. He first caught the coronavirus in March and spent over 40 days in the hospital with a severe case of the virus. Then in July, he was admitted to the hospital once again with symptoms.

Test results were troubling, to say the least—he had the virus again, but it was a different strain. Fortunately, for him, doctors said his second bout was less severe.

This revelation is yet another thing that makes COVID-19 so mysterious and unsettling for the medical community.

Many know what it is like to feel the genuine fear of contracting the virus. But for the few who have contracted it a second time, fear is an understatement.

“There’s not a day that will go by that I don't think about my experience and a day that goes by that I think what if I get sick again,” said coronavirus survivor, Michael Flor.

“I am terrified of getting it again, I can't imagine anything worse happening,” said another survivor, David.

It’s something many feared was possible, but having confirmation is especially difficult for many COVID-19 survivors.

“I have no memory of my first month in the ICU, I really have no memory of it other than what people told me,” said Flor.

Flor was admitted to the hospital in early March for the virus. It caused him such severe complications, he was put into an induced coma. At one point, doctors called his wife and children and told them it was looking like he wasn’t going to make it. Nurses helped them FaceTime with him so his family could say goodbye.

“It's very emotional, I don't have any memory of it, but I could hear the trauma in her voice, it was hard, it was hard listening to that and it was probably the first time we talked about it that I realized I almost died," said David.

Now, with a patient in Seattle confirmed to have caught the virus twice, it’s inevitable for Flor to think what if; what if that happened to him.

“It’s extremely harrowing…to get reinfected. You know how often can you dodge a bullet? And I’ve thought about it. You know if I got sick again would I be able to beat it a second time? I don't know, it's scary," said Flor.

David tested positive for COVID-19 in early March. But his symptoms didn’t go away quickly. He continuously got incredibly ill, even after it seemingly left his system.

David said it’s still a huge struggle fighting his long-term symptoms, but he’s slowly getting better. But the thought of getting the virus again scares him.

“In one word it’s terrifying, terrifying," he said.

It’s a feeling he knows he’s not alone in.

“Reinfection is definitely a big topic in the support group I’m in…it's been a major anxiety for some people, major major anxiety," said David.

Reinfection is a huge area the medical community is just starting to learn more about. The Washington State Department of Health says one of the challenges is that in order to get official confirmation that someone has gotten the virus twice, they need to be able to test their initial positive swab, which often isn’t available as clinics tend to throw them out after a certain period of time. DOH says they’re working on establishing a protocol going forward that will better help them identify reinfection.