Obviously, you can catch Covid-19 coronavirus more than once, which I have covered for Forbes earlier. But how about getting infected on two separate occasions within three weeks? It could give three weeks not so positive. Or in fact, when it comes to Covid-19 testing, way too positive three weeks.
Well, that’s apparently what happened to a 31-year-old woman in Spain, according to a press release from the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID). Her story was the subject of a case report presented at ECCMID, which will take place in Lisbon, Portugal, from 23 to 26 April.
Now, “medical case report topic” may not be something you typically state on a resume or dating profile. This is because a medical case report often means that an unusual and not so good story has happened. In this case, the story started on December 20, 2021. That day, the woman, who is a healthcare professional, routinely underwent Covid-19 screening with a PCR test. Here, PCR stands for polymerase chain reaction, which would be more accurate in diagnosing Covid-19 than an antigen test, and not pickled cabbage reserve, which you should not use to diagnose Covid-19. The PCR test again came positive for Covid-19, which then caused her to go into isolation for ten days. All the while, she had never developed any symptoms. Finally, whole genome sequencing of the sample revealed that she had been infected with the Delta variant of the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2).
This qualified as a “breakthrough case” because she had already been fully vaccinated and boosted against Covid-19. The booster had arrived 12 days before she was tested positive for Covid-19, just under the two weeks it can take for the booster to achieve its full effect. Of course, even the full power of the booster would not mean 100% protection. As I have indicated for Forbes earlier, while the vaccine can provide good protection against severe Covid-19, it is not like a concrete whole-body condom. Nevertheless, being fully vaccinated and boosted should leave you more protected than just being fully vaccinated. And being fully vaccinated should leave you much more protected than not being vaccinated at all, just as it is better to wear underwear than to wear absolutely nothing.
If the story had ended there, it probably would not have done so as a medical case report. You will not see case reports of anything very common or expected, such as “Person falls slag block on foot, it really hurts” or “Person eats 40 hot dogs, develops stomach pain.” The saga continued rather, taking a turn shortly after she had completed her isolation and returned to work. On January 10, 2022, just 20 days after her first positive Covid-19 test, she began to feel sick with a cough and fever. This could not have been Covid-19 again, right? After all, 20 days is just under two Scaramuccis, which would be a really short time. There had been no documented case of anyone being infected a second time so soon after the first. And have some people on social media not claimed that once you’ve been infected in the past, you do not have to worry about getting Covid-19 again?
Alas, Whitesnake’s words, “here I go again,” ended up being valid here. She got another PCR test and voilà she was positive for Covid-19 again. Was this second positive test just from a prolonged first infection? Like the TV show Supernatural, did the infection last longer than it should have? Or was this second positive Covid-19 test really a sign of a whole new infection? Well, whole genome sequencing found that this second time, the culprit was not the Delta variant again, but instead the Omicron variant. It was a brand new infection with a different version of the virus. So basically a person who had been fully vaccinated, had been boosted and had a previous Covid-19 coronavirus infection, had become infected by, drum beats, SARS-CoV-2 again.
The press release quoted one of the authors of the case report, Gemma Recio, MD, from the Institut Català de Salut, Tarragona, Spain, as saying: “This case highlights the potential of the Omicron variant to evade the previous immunity acquired either from a “natural infection with other variants or from vaccines. In other words, people who have had Covid-19 cannot assume that they are protected against re-infection even if they are fully vaccinated.” If you think about it, there is no reason why you should not be susceptible to being infected again as soon as you are no longer infected with the virus. No one has said that the immune protection against a natural infection is 100%, especially with new variants of SARS-CoV-2 continuing to emerge. When it comes to SARS-CoV-2 during the pandemic, consider your body as a 24-hour grocery store, always open.
Here is a CBS13 WJZ news item about the case:
Consider this case report as another warning that neither natural immunity nor vaccination alone will fully protect you against Covid-19 right now. Believing that these in themselves will be enough to keep you covered while the pandemic is still going on would be tantamount to going into a job interview or a date with only your underwear on and thinking, “yeah, I have it here.” What you may end up getting is infected or, in the latter case, no job, no other date or possibly arrested. As long as the virus continues to circulate as widely as it is now, it is a good idea to maintain other Covid-19 precautions such as social distancing and the use of a face mask. Otherwise you would expose yourself to being infected again. And potentially again and again and again.