- If you have been infected with COVID-19 once, it is possible to be re-infected with new and new variants of the virus. In fact, experts say it is possible to be re-infected with COVID-19 several times in a year.
- Reinfections are likely to be milder and less severe than previous infections due to higher levels of immunity to vaccines or an initial infection.
- Older adults, people who are immunocompromised, people with underlying health conditions and groups who cannot get a strong immune response may be more vulnerable to re-infection.
- Wearing a mask, staying up to date on vaccinations, social distancing, and spending time outdoors can potentially help prevent COVID-19 re-infection.
Omicron variants BA.4 and BA.5 now accounts for nearly 21% of new COVID-19 cases in the United States, according to discretion from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). As new COVID-19 strains emerge, infectious disease experts say re-infections and groundbreaking COVID-19 infections will become increasingly common.
Here’s everything health experts want you to know about COVID-19 reinfections.
Will COVID-19 reinfection become the norm?
The United States does not currently track COVID-19 reinfections, however Kelly Gebo, MD, MPHa professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine with expertise in COVID-19 and epidemiology, told Verywell that she believes people can be infected with COVID-19 more than once a year.
In fact, get infected with COVID-19 could become a seasonal eventlike getting the flu or the common cold.
Kelly Gebo, MD, MPH
We are going to see re-infections happen and people’s immunity will diminish just like we see with other types of viral infections.
– Kelly Gebo, MD, MPH
“It’s likely that almost all of us will be infected at some point with the virus because there are new variants evolving,” Gebo said. “We are going to see genetic infections happen and people’s immunity will diminish, just as we are seeing with other types of viral infections.”
The severity of these reinfections is currently unknown. Julie Parsonnet, MDa professor of epidemiology and public health at Stanford University, told Verywell.
“They could get milder and milder,” Parsonnet said. “Or, like the flu, they can vary from wave to wave.”
Can I get COVID-19 again if I get vaccinated and boosted?
According to Scott Weisenberg, MDa clinical associate professor of medicine at the NYU Grossman School of Medicine and director of the travel medicine program, it is possible to become re-infected with COVID-19, even if you already have tested positive for and recovered from the virus once. It is also possible to get COVID-19 if you are up to date on your vaccines and boosters.
“Since Omicron and all the new variants after, reinfections have become more common despite people’s previous infection status or vaccination,” Weisenberg said. “While they are still protected against serious disease from vaccines and boosters, they do not have as much protection that lasts that long against re-infections.”
As viruses – including COVID-19 – are constantly changing, new strains can increase a person’s risk of re-infection. Parsonnet points to Omicron, the current virus strain, which is able to evade both vaccines and natural immunity over time, similar to other coronaviruses.
When you combine developing strains with natural immunity or immunity to vaccines that diminish over time, Gebo said cases of re-infection are expected to be seen.
“We learn with Omicron that immunity decreases, so when people move further away from their vaccine or booster, their immunity to the virus also decreases,” Gebo said. “Some people also feel that the pandemic is over or would like to think it is over and it is there much less masking and social distancing and so people are exposed on a much more regular basis. ”
How many times can I get a re-infection?
It is not possible to say exactly how many times a person may become re-infected with COVID-19, but experts agree there is no limit. Re-infection can also occur more than once a year.
Julia Parsonnet, MD
We do not know if these reinfections will be very mild or if they will have the capacity to cause serious illness.
– Julia Parsonnet, MD
Gebo said that if the COVID-19 virus continues to mutate and change, people could continue to be exposed to new variants and become infected again.
“There has been some speculation that the virus mutates on a roughly every four to six months basis,” Gebo said. “And so it is possible that you may be re-infected several times within a year.”
Weisenberg said, however, that whether a person becomes re-infected depends on a few factors, including the strength of their immune response (especially from previous infections of various variants), and whether they are up to date on vaccinations.
“We do not know if these reinfections will be very mild or if they will have the capacity to cause serious illness,” Parsonnet said. “It simply depends on how virulent the strains are and the development of new vaccines.”
How long does immunity last after infection?
According to the CDC, the immune response following a COVID-19 infection must continue to provide at least 50% protection against re-infection for one to two years after the first infection or vaccination.
Weisenberg said while CDC data and other observational studies have suggested that natural immunity will help protect people from COVID-19 re-infection for at least six months, that time frame depends on what new and future variants will look like.
“I do not think you can be re-infected in 30 days and I think that is unlikely in two months, but we do not know anything for sure,” Gebo said. “With each variant, it seems to be a little different.”
The duration of immunity also varies from person to person. For example, Gebo said that a person who is immunosuppressed may be more likely to become infected multiple times because their body cannot react strongly.
Will my symptoms be mild or worse if I am re-infected?
Gebo said cases of reinfections are likely to be milder or less severe than a previous infection due to vaccinations and higher levels of immunity from previous infections.
“If you are vaccinated and have an infection, you tend to have fewer symptoms than people who are unvaccinated and have had symptoms, ”Gebo said.
Weisenberg said, however, that some people may experience symptoms that are more severe the second, third, or even fourth time. These cases depend on variables such as which variant they received, the amount of virus they were exposed to, how immune they were to a particular variant when they were exposed, if the immunity to COVID has decreased, and their health at that time. .
Weisenberg stressed that vaccines remain one of the most effective tools for preventing serious illness, hospitalization and death.
Will I become long COVID if I become re-infected?
At present, there is not enough evidence to say whether re-infection leads to or not lang COVID-symptoms that persist for weeks or months after recovering from an initial infection.
“We are still learning about lang COVID and how re-infection can have an impact, “Gebo said.” It’s not something we can certainly answer right now, especially if you are less or more likely to develop it. ”
Are some people more likely to become re-infected?
The CDC does not currently track cases of re-infection or the most affected populations. But Gebo said there are certain groups of people who are more susceptible to re-infection, including older adults, people who have chronic medical conditions such as. sickle cell disease or heart disease, people with other underlying health conditions and people who are not capable of it establish an immune response to the vaccine.
How can I avoid reinfection?
To avoid re-infection, experts recommend that people continue to take the same steps they have taken throughout the pandemic:
- Wear a mask indoors, in crowded areas and in communities where COVID-19 rates are high
- Spend as much time outdoors as possible
- Social distance when you are around others
- Wash your hands often and properly
- Minimize social interaction, especially with people who are at high risk of becoming infected
- Test for COVID-19 before visiting friends and family and before traveling
- Get vaccinated and boosted if you are eligible and able
- Continue to follow and listen to recommendations on public health
What this means for you
It is possible to become re-infected with COVID-19 – even if you have been vaccinated. Experts say it is possible that people are being re-infected with new variants of the virus more than once a year. That said, experts also stress that masking and getting vaccinated can help prevent re-infection.
The information in this article is current from the date stated, which means that more recent information may be available as you read this. For the latest updates on COVID-19, visit our coronavirus news site.