December 7, 2022

Filipino Guardian

Sentinels of Filipino Free Press

Repeat COVID is more risky than initial infection, study finds

3 min read


The risk of death, hospitalization and serious health problems from coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) increases significantly when you are newly infected compared to a first attack with the virus, regardless of vaccination status, a study published Thursday suggests.

“Reinfection with COVID-19 increases the risk of both acute episodes and long-term COVID,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. “This was evident in unvaccinated, vaccinated and boosted individuals.”

The results come from United States Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) data collected from March 1, 2020 to April 6, 2022 in 443,588 patients with one SARS-CoV-2 infection, 40,947 with two or more infections, and 5.3 million not infected persons were collected. Most study participants were male.

Reinfected patients had more than twice the risk of death and more than tripled the risk of hospitalization compared to patients who had only been infected with COVID once. They also had an increased risk of problems with their lungs, heart, blood, kidneys, diabetes, mental health, bones and muscles, and neurological disorders, according to a report published in Nature Medicine.

“Even if someone has had a previous infection and has been vaccinated – meaning they had double immunity to a previous infection plus vaccines – they are still vulnerable to adverse consequences if they are reinfected,” said study leader Dr. Al-Aly.

People in the study with repeated infections were more than three times more likely to develop lung problems, three times more likely to develop heart disease, and 60% more likely to develop neurological disorders than those who had been infected only once. The higher risks were most pronounced in the first month after reinfection but were still evident six months later, the researchers found.

Experts not involved in the study said the VA population does not reflect the general population.

Patients in VA health care facilities are generally older, more ill people and often men, a group who usually have more than normal health complications, said John Moore, professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York.

The researchers said the cumulative risks and burdens of repeat infections increased with the number of infections, even after accounting for differences in COVID-19 variants such as Delta, Omicron and BA.5.

dr But Celine Gounder, an infectious disease epidemiologist and editor at Kaiser Health News, said there appears to be a “plateau effect in multiple infections,” with a smaller jump in risk after the second infection.

“The good news is that the better protected people are by immunity, the risk of developing some of the complications will likely be lower over time,” she added.

Nonetheless, Dr. Al-Aly that people should not slack off.

“We had started to see a lot of patients coming into the clinic with an air of invincibility,” he told Reuters. “They were like, ‘Does it really matter if you get reinfection?’ The answer is yes, it absolutely does.”

Ahead of the rapidly approaching holiday season of travel and indoor gatherings, “people should be aware that reinfection is dire and take precautions,” he added. – Reuters

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