(CNN Spanish) – Covid-19 reinfection is a topic of conversation not only in the media. Among our social circle we have heard of someone who has suffered from the disease up to 3 or 4 times.
Dr. Elmer Huerta analyzes two studies indicating the effects of these reinfections and one of them has to do with the persistent symptoms of the disease, known as prolonged covid.
You can listen to this episode on Spotify or your favorite podcast platform, or read the transcript below.
Hello, I’m Dr. Elmer Vegetable garden and this is your dose of information about the new coronavirus. Information that we hope will be useful to take care of your health and that of your family.
In the february 8 episodewe hear what is called persistent covid or “long-covid”, and how this condition – like many others in the history of medicine – had to fight to be recognized by health professionals.
There is no doubt that with the arrival of the omicron variant and its different sublineages, the pandemic has changed drastically.
Omicron, the variant that changed the course of the pandemic
If before ómicron the concept of herd immunity was used as one of the weapons to control the pandemic, the arrival of that family of SARS-CoV-2 completely changed the rules of the game.
This is because one of the most important characteristics of the omicron family is that it is able to evade neutralizing antibodies that are produced as a result of previous infection and vaccination.
This means that a person can be infected two, three and even four times, so the concept of herd immunity is no longer possible.
Recall that herd immunity is defined as the protection acquired by a community as a result of a certain proportion of the population becoming infected with a certain virus. This definition is based on the fact that a person cannot be reinfected with the virus in question.
As millions of reinfections occur, the concept of herd immunity then becomes a relatively irrelevant situation.
Multiple covid-19 infections, greater protection?
If it is then accepted that a person can be infected more than once, a very pertinent question is the one that refers to the meaning of that, or those reinfections: does it provide any benefit, or vice versa, does it predispose him to complications?
Two recent studies, by researchers at Washington University in St. Louis, as well as the St. Louis Veterans Care system and the University of St. Louis, Missouri, provide answers to those questions.
In the first, published in Nature Medicine of May 25Researchers compared what happened to the health of nearly 34,000 people who had at least one reinfection after being vaccinated against Covid-19, with that of three groups of people, called control groups.
The first, called contemporary, made up of almost 5 million people who lived during the pandemic, but without a history of SARS-CoV-2 infection.
The second, a group of almost 5.5 million people who lived before the pandemic and the third, of almost 3 million people vaccinated against covid-19.
The results show that although the symptoms of prolonged covid, including an increased risk of death, can also occur in vaccinated people who become reinfected, their frequency is lower in the latter group.
The authors conclude that, although vaccination may partially reduce the risks of death and prolonged covid, public health policies are required to continue to encourage primary prevention of infection with the use of masks, social distance and ventilation of closed spaces.
Prolonged covid after reinfection
In the second studystill a non-peer-reviewed preprint, the authors expand their study to find out if having two or more infections increases the risk of prolonged covid symptoms.
For that, they compare three groups:
- The first of more than 257,000 people who had a single SARS-CoV-2 infection,
- The second, of almost 39,000 people who had two, three or four SARS-CoV-2 infections,
- The third, of more than 5.5 million people with no history of infection.
As an interesting fact, in the group of almost 39,000 reinfections it was seen that:
- More than 36,000 had it twice,
- More than 2,200 had it three times and
- 246 were infected four times.
Regarding the time between infection and infection, it was found that the mean between the first and the second infection was 79 days (with an interval between 48 and 119 days), and between the second and third infection it was 65.
The results of the study indicate that, contrary to what people believe, having two or more infections does not provide greater protection or resistance to developing symptoms, but rather, on the contrary, it increases the possibility of persistent symptoms.
In this sense, it was seen that the risk of presenting new symptoms was greater when the person was reinfected, seeing that the symptoms lasted at least six months. That increased risk of developing symptoms was seen regardless of whether someone had been vaccinated or not, and was directly proportional to the number of infections, seen to increase with each subsequent infection.
The most common symptoms that occur in a reinfection
The symptom More common after reinfections included:
- Chest pain
- abnormal heart rhythms
- Heart attacks
- Inflammation of the heart muscle or the sac that surrounds the heart
- Heart failure and blood clots
Common lung problems included:
- Difficulty breathing
- Low level of oxygen in the blood
- Lung disease
- Fluid buildup around the lungs
In short, the appearance of the omicron variant completely changed the landscape of the pandemic, making reinfections much more frequent than before, which —contrary to what one might believe— It is not that they reinforce the defense system causing milder illnesses, but rather that they put us at greater risk of developing symptoms of persistent covid.
Although it is true that vaccination can partially protect against these complications, this protection would not be complete, so it is important that —while the pandemic persists— Let’s make every effort to avoid infection.
Do you have questions about covid-19?
Send me your questions on Twitter, we’ll try to answer them in our next episodes. you can find me at @DrHuerta.
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