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Ottawa Public Health says sorry for information on possible COVID-19 antibodies
A look at one of Ottawa's COVID-19 assessment centres.
OTTAWA -- Ottawa Public Health is apologizing for sharing information about possible COVID-19 immunity during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Twitter on Friday, Ottawa Public Health said, "People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection have antibodies to fight future COVID-19 infections. They will very likely be protected from reinfection with COVID-19 for months to one or two years, and perhaps longer."
On Sunday, the health unit said, “we’re sorry” on Twitter and updated its Frequently Asked Questions section on its website.
In the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website on Friday, Ottawa Public Health had said, “People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection have antibodies to fight future COVID-19 infections.”
Ottawa Public Health noted “people who recovered from SARS infection acquired in the 2003 epidemic (an infection caused by a very similar virus to COVID-19) had protective antibodies reported as long as two years after their first infection. One SARS survivor was found to have protective antibodies 17 years after infection.”
“So, people who have been infected with COVID-19 will very likely be protected from reinfection with COVID-19 for months to 1 to two years, and perhaps longer – we will know more about this as time goes on but this is a safe assumption.”
The information has been deleted from the Ottawa Public Health website.
On Sunday, Ottawa Public Health said on Twitter that the Friday tweet about antibodies and people who have recovered from COVID-19 was written “a few weeks ago and it was based on our info at the time (info which has since been updated).”
“We’re sorry for any confusion we may have caused.”
Ottawa Public Health updated the Frequently Asked Questions section under the question, “Is there a possibility that a person who gets the virus once can get it again?”
The health unit writes, “People who have recovered from COVID-19 infection have antibodies to fight future COVID-19 infections but it is not known how long this immunity will last.”
“But the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 illness has only been known for a short period of time and more evidence will come to light in the coming weeks and months.”
Ottawa Public Health once again encourages everyone to follow public health recommendations to limit the spread of COVID-19, including practicing physical distancing, wash hands frequently, never touch eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands and wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible.
Is it possible to get COVID-19 a second time?
CTV News Ottawa asked an epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa, “Is there a possibility that a person who gets the virus once can get it again,”
“It’s probably not the case, but we can’t say definitively right now,” said Dr. Raywat Deonandan, noting Ottawa Public Health is drawing the conclusions based on research from SARS.
“We know from looking at SARS over the last 17 years that pretty much everybody (who got SARS) showed antibodies lasting for two to five months. And even after five months to up to three years, people showed the presence of antibodies, but a diminishing amount,” said Dr. Deonandan.
“What you take away from that is for two to five months those people were probably immune. After two to five months, the immunity diminished somewhat.”
Dr. Deonandan says it was the “wrong thing to do” for Ottawa Public Health to translate the SARS experience to COVID, because “this is not SARS.”
Dr. Deonandan says studies have shown that monkeys have developed COVID-19 antibodies for up to 28 days, but it is not known if humans develop antibodies for COVID-19.
There are two different antibodies – “IgM” is produced immediately after infection and “IgG” is what you produce a couple of weeks after infection, and can make you resistant for some time.
The epidemiologist at the University of Ottawa says when it comes to COVID-19, “We do know that most people seem to produce IgG antibodies, we do not know how much is needed to confirm anti-immunity and how long it lasts.”
Dr. Deonandan says Ottawa Public Health’s advice to practice physical distancing guidelines, wash your hands frequently and wear a mask when physical distancing is not possible is the “safe thing” for everyone to do.