COVID-19’s new immune super race
Survivors of COVID-19 are the new super race able mingle freely with other humans and there are calls for this army of the immune to be put to work in frontline health and welfare jobs.
Already COVID-19 survivors in the US and China are being asked to donate their blood so the antibodies to the virus it contains can be harvested for use in treating the sick.
Australian National University epidemiologist Peter Collignon said as the virus spread these people could be a valuable asset in frontline jobs in hospitals and other public services because they are unlikely to get re-infected.
State health departments will have a register of the several hundred people who have tested positive to the virus and recovered, he said.
"I would think it is early days but once you know who was infected and fully recovered, they will think I'm immune so can do frontline roles and not be infected," he said.
Already a handful of health workers in Sydney and Victoria have fought off the virus and theoretically it means they could be deployed in wards treating COVID-19 patients possibly without using scarce protective gear.
"That was always in the government's pandemic plan," said Griffith University public health expert Professor Paul van Buynder.
He says less qualified members of the public who have recovered from the virus could be redeployed into frontline positions in fever clinics or hospitals.
"They'd be safe in any setting," he said.
But he said they couldn't be deployed to re-open cafes. While those who have recovered would not be at risk in a café those who had not contracted the virus could not be allowed to mingle together in cafes if we want to stop the spread of the virus.
It has yet to be proven but medicos hope that once you've recovered from coronavirus you are likely to be immune and should not be able to catch it against at least in the short term.
Research released recently showed monkeys could not be re-infected with COVID-19 after they recovered from the virus.
As more and more of us are forced to work from home to stop the spread of the virus those who caught it and fought it off could be allowed back into the workplace.
One hitch might be getting a medical certificate to prove you've had the virus. Overworked GPs are already refusing to spend valuable time providing certificate for employers who want to know and employee has tested negative for the virus.
I'M HAPPY TO WORK ON THE FRONTLINE
Michele O'Shea was released from home quarantine last week after she caught coronavirus while on holiday in Las Vegas and says she's prepared to step up and use her immunity for the public good.
The Sydney grandmother suspects she picked up the virus at a Rod Stewart Concert or around the gaming tables of the casino capital of the US when the city was hosting a major conference for John Deere agricultural machinery manufacturer.
Alternatively, the 58-year-old may have caught it at The Eagles concert she attended with 40,000 other fans in Houston Texas.
When school administrator left Australia for her three week holiday on February 26 there were only 22 cases of COVID-19 in Australia and the virus "wasn't even on my radar", she said.
There was little mention of the virus in the US while she holidayed in a ski resort with friends in Colorado but once she reached Las Vegas it was all over the news.
She arrived home on the morning of March 15 with a slight temperature and felt ill and even though the government's new rules requiring returned travellers to self-isolate for 14 days had not yet come into effect she decided not to leave her home.
Ms O'Shea said her case of COVID-19 was mild, she had a sore throat and a tightness in her chest but she felt better within a few days.
Now she is free to move outside her home she's found there is not much to do with cafes, shops and other businesses closed because of the virus.
However, she says she would be prepared to help out on the frontline of the hospital system if the government requires that those who are immune from the virus step into essential roles.
"I'd be happy to do that," she said.
Asked if she would donate her blood so her antibodies could be harvested as a treatment she said she had no problem "I used to donate blood years ago".
Ms O'Shea says she's relieved she has recovered from the virus but she's still worried for her extended family particularly her 78 year old mother.
Originally published as COVID-19's new immune super race