COVID-19 Reinfection Is Rare, Serious Illness Even Rare – CBS Miami

MIAMI (CNN) — When people became reinfected with COVID-19, their chance of ending up in hospital or dying was 90% lower than with an initial COVID-19 infection, according to a new study.

The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that there were few confirmed reinfections among 353,326 people who contracted COVID-19 in Qatar, and the reinfections were rare and generally mild.

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The first wave of infections in Qatar struck between March and June 2020. Ultimately, about 40% of the population had detectable antibodies against COVID-19. The country then had two more waves from January through May 2021. This was prior to the more contagious delta variant.

To determine how many people became infected again, scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar compared data from people with PCR-confirmed infections between February 2020 and April 2021. They excluded 87,547 people who received the vaccine.

Researchers found that among the remaining cases, there were 1,304 reinfections. The median time between first illness and reinfection was approximately 9 months.

Among those with reinfections, only four cases were serious enough to require hospitalization. There were no cases where people were so sick that they had to be treated in intensive care. Of the first cases, 28 were considered critical. There were no deaths among the reinfected group, while there were seven deaths in the initial infections.

“If you only have 1,300 reinfections among that many people, and four cases of serious illness, that’s pretty remarkable,” said John Alcorn, an expert in immunology and a professor of pediatrics at the University of Pittsburgh who was not affiliated with this study.

The research has limits. It was done in Qatar, so it’s not clear if the virus would behave the same anywhere else. The work was done when the alpha and beta variants were the cause of many reinfections. There were 621 cases where it was indeterminate and 213 of a “wild-type” virus. There was no mention of the delta variant, which is now the predominant strain. That could have an impact on the number of reinfections.

previous studies have shown that natural immunity lowers the risk of infection. a study done in Denmark, published in March, found that most people who had COVID-19 appeared to have protection against reinfection that remained stable for more than six months, but a check of the demographics of re-infected showed that it was mainly people aged 65 and over. That study does not clarify how long the protection lasts, nor does the new Qatar study.

Alcorn’s own research on natural immunity shows that antibody levels also vary significantly from person to person. Scientists still don’t know what level of antibodies is protective, but in some cases the levels after infection may not be enough to prevent someone from getting sick again.

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“It needs to be determined whether such protection against severe disease upon reinfection lasts for a longer period of time, analogous to the immunity that develops against other seasonal ‘cold’ coronaviruses, which elicit short-term immunity against mild reinfection but longer-term immunity. against more severe disease with reinfection,” the study said. “If this were the case with SARS-CoV-2, the virus (or at least the variants studied so far) could adopt a more benign infection pattern when it becomes endemic.”

dr. Kami Kim, an infectious disease specialist not affiliated with this study, said people should be careful not to get the wrong impression that it means people don’t need to get vaccinated if they’ve been sick with COVID-19.

“It’s like asking the question: Do you need airbags and seat belts?” said Kim, director of the Department of Infectious Diseases and International Medicine at the University of South Florida. “Just because you have airbags doesn’t mean seat belts won’t help you and vice versa. It’s good to have the protection of both.”

Kim said it’s not worth taking your chances with the disease, especially since an infection can have long-term effects. “The incidence of lung Covid is much higher than the risk of getting a vaccine,” Kim said.

Vaccinations not only protect an individual from getting sick, it also protects the community.

“Modern medicine is much better, and people get cancer and survive and autoimmune diseases and thrive. Unless you’re really close, you don’t always know who is vulnerable to a more serious disease, and you could literally put people you care about in can put you at risk if you get sick and expose them,” Kim said. “Without vaccination you cannot go back to a normal life.”

Limiting the number of diseases also limits the possibility that more variants could develop, variants that could be even more dangerous than what is currently circulating.

Alcorn said there is another important lesson from this study.

“Vaccinations are still our best method of getting to the same place as these people who are infected, absolutely,” Alcorn said. “The main conclusion of this study here is that there is hope that through vaccination and through infection recovery, we will reach the level where everyone has a certain level of protection.”

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