Doriane Lambelet Coleman is Professor of Law at Duke Law School, Senior Fellow at Duke University’s Kenan Institute for Ethics, and Associate of the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities & History of Medicine
Just as individual cells are permeable so that disease can move from cell to cell and spread within our bodies, so too our bodies are permeable so that disease can move from individual to individual and spread within our communities. Those who’ve recovered from infectious disease typically have some degree of immunity, which results from the antibodies we develop to fight the infection. Like soldiers who’ve defeated the enemy and stand guard for a time to repel further invasions, antibodies linger in our cells, remembering the disease and how to fight it if it returns. The immunity that comes from having survived disease may be incomplete or temporary, but so long as it resides within us, we’re unlikely to become ill again ourselves, and we’re also unlikely to contaminate others.