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Tags: covid | omicron | reinfection

How Often Can You Become Reinfected with COVID-19?

vial of blood labeled COVID-19 omicron variant
(Dreamstime)

By    |   Wednesday, 18 May 2022 11:48 AM EDT

Scientists say that you can be reinfected repeatedly with the omicron variant, even within months. The virus shows no signs of disappearing any time soon, and elusive variants are popping up that can dodge the body’s defenses, causing several infections per year.

According to The New York Times, this may be the future of COVID-19. People who have already been infected with the first omicron variant have reported second infections with the newer versions of the variant — BA.2 or BA.2.12.1 in the United States, or BA.4 and BA.5 in South Africa.

“It seems likely to me that that’s going to sort of be a long-term pattern,” says Juliet Pulliam, an infectious disease expert at Stellenbosch University in South Africa. “The virus is going to keep evolving. And there are probably going to be a lot of people getting many, many infections throughout their lives.”

Pulliam says that she and her colleagues have been collecting data that reveals the rate of reinfection is higher with omicron than with previous variants. Earlier in the pandemic, experts thought that immunity from natural infection or vaccination would prevent most infections. Unfortunately, omicron and its descendants have managed to partially dodge immunity, leaving many people vulnerable to reinfection. An infection with omicron also produces a weaker immune response, which appears to wane quickly, and does not protect against the evolving variants, says The Times.

“If we manage it the way we manage it now, then most people will get infected with it at least a couple of times a year,” says Kristian Andersen, a professor in the department of Immunology and Microbiology at Scripps Research.

Two preliminary studies have shown that the omicron variant can mutate quickly and overcome the defenses our immune systems put up, says NPR. The mutations allow the virus to reinfect people who have already had an omicron infection. This reinfection risk appears to be higher for people who are not vaccinated, according to the studies.

“The data shows, again and again, that the vaccine has tremendous benefits,” says virologist Pei-Yong Shi at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.

The good news is that the vaccines also help prevent severe illness in people who get COVID-19 and this applies to reinfections, says The Times.

Experts once predicted that the coronavirus would behave more like influenza making its arrival annually so that vaccinations could be beneficial before the onset. However, it appears that the virus is acting more like its closely-related cousins that circulate frequently causing colds year-round.

To stay ahead of the virus, experts suggest COVID-19 vaccines be updated more quickly to match new forms of the pathogen and broaden immunity.

“Every single time we think we’re through this, every single time we think we have the upper hand, the virus pulls a trick on us,” says Andersen. “The way to get it under control is not, ‘Let’s all get infected a few times a year and hope for the best.’”

© 2022 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.


Health-News
Scientists say that you can be reinfected repeatedly with the omicron variant, even within months. The virus shows no signs of disappearing any time soon, and elusive variants are popping up that can dodge the body's defenses, causing several infections per year. According...
covid, omicron, reinfection
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2022-48-18
Wednesday, 18 May 2022 11:48 AM
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