Will Covid re-infection increase health risks? Experts are not sure | coronavirus

A recent study says that re-infection with COVID-19 may pose an additional risk to people’s long-term health – compared to having COVID only once – although some infectious disease experts in the US disagree that this There is evidence to suggest that repeated infections are more dangerous.

The issue of the impact of repeated infections is becoming increasingly important in the United States as the COVID-19 pandemic now plays out amid widespread relaxations of any social distancing or restrictions, causing many people to contract the virus twice or more. have been hit. ,

A second or more COVID infection increases a person’s risk of death, hospitalization, and various adverse health outcomes, including diabetes and neurological disorders, according to a study published in the journal Nature Medicine that looked at the healthcare database of the US Department of Veterans Affairs .

“Re-infection is consequential in the sense that if you get Covid again, even if you’ve had it before and even if you’ve been vaccinated, it can still put you in hospital, yet in some cases Death can occur,” said study author Dr. Ziad Al-Aly, who works as a clinical epidemiologist at Washington University and chief of research at the Veterans Affairs St. Louis Healthcare System.

But an infectious disease epidemiologist and editor-at-large at Kaiser Health News, Dr. Celine Gounder is among those who said that immunity from the first infection means there is a lower risk of such outcomes from subsequent infections.

Gounder said, “There is nothing about a re-infection that is more dangerous than the original infection, and if anything, a re-infection is going to be less of a risk because you have some immunity at the time of the re-infection.” There is a baseline.”

The debate over the risks of re-infection – which experts say is likely to continue – may determine what precautions people take against Covid and whether people worry unnecessarily at a time when the pandemic is already wreaking havoc on mental health But it has become heavy.

Al-Aly said the VA researchers decided to conduct the study because patients who were already infected were coming to local clinics with an “air of invincibility.” “Some media actually started referring to these patients as ‘super immune.'”

To determine whether this was valid, the researchers compared health outcomes among more than 440,000 participants who had no Covid reinfection with nearly 40,000 participants who had at least one reinfection. They found that reinfection during the acute phase and six months after infection increased the risk of mortality and adverse health outcomes.

As such, when people consider whether it is appropriate to take precautions to protect themselves from reinfection, “the answer is yes”, Al-Aly said.

But other infectious disease experts see potential problems with the study. For example, the population of VA patients is mostly older and male.

“What might pop up in a database with a lot of sick people may not necessarily apply to young, healthy people,” said John Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College.

The idea is important, Moore said, because the study could create additional fear and anger in the general public, especially among healthy people who “worry about their health from the moment they wake up in the morning until they go to bed at night.”

A woman wearing a mask walks through a crowd of people at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles on December 3. Photograph: Carolyn Brehmann / EPA

“If you’re worried because you’re reading information that suggests that if you get multiple Covid infections, you’re going to have Covid for a long time” automatically, “I don’t think that’s helpful,” Moore said.

According to a study conducted in Israel and published in the journal BMJ, there is also new, perhaps encouraging, evidence that longer-lasting Covid symptoms from mild infection lead to chronic health problems among the vast majority of people rather than Heals within a year.

Moore said, “Many of these cases were definitely resolved within a year, which isn’t great — I’m not trying to downplay that.” “But there are growing signs that for most people, it’s not for life, which is a good thing.”

Al-Aly acknowledges that the study tracked mostly older, white, men but said its estimates adjusted for these characteristics. They also reported that 10% of the participants were female and 12% were under the age of 38.

As for concerns about the study inducing irrational fears, Al-Aly said he thinks “knowing is better than not knowing”.

“I would be too scared of the uncertainty,” he said. “Armed with real knowledge, knowing the consequences, you can actually take measures to protect yourself, protect your family on an educated basis.”

But Brown feels that there hasn’t been a definitive study on the impact of reinfections, partly because many of them happened during the Omicron growth spurt, and there hasn’t been enough time to accumulate and analyze the data.

“So I think we have to tread carefully,” Moore said. “You cannot say that this is an established fact and therefore there is an increased level of anxiety among people who worry about their health.”

US residents must now consider the precautions – or not consider them at all – after Joe Biden declared a pandemic and in a society where few people wear masks.

Justin Lessler, professor of epidemiology at the University of North Carolina, said that when deciding how to respond to reports like the VA study, it’s important to realize that re-infection is still risky.

“However, this is not the same as saying that they are riskier than earlier acquisitions. [Covid] in the pre-vaccine era; They are not,” said Lessler, who continues to wear a mask and refrain from indoor dining amid a recent surge in Covid cases.

People who are at high risk of COVID or people who are at high risk should “be careful and use your equipment to be safe,” Lessler said. “However, I think those measures need to be balanced against what people are prepared to go through in the long run, in the form of intermittent periods of high [Covid] Transmission is likely to continue far into the future.

Al-Aly recommends that people take “common sense measures”, such as wearing a mask when using public transport. He also suggested avoiding “unnecessary, very large gatherings”.

When asked what would happen to such an event, he said, “People have to decide for themselves whether this music festival is really worth it?”

He added: “At the end of the day, it’s really about the risk tolerance for that individual.”

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