How quickly can you Catch Covid-19 again?

So I am recovering from acute Covid-19 5.0. Apart from the fact I am stuck in "flight or fight" again (most likely an overactive limbic system which I definitely want to discuss with you all at some point - especially if you have Dysautonomia) I am doing OK. It WAS a "flu-like illness" this time around - extreme fatigue, worsening POTS, reduced appetite, runny nose.... The shortest gap between my infections was 30 days. Delta to Omicron - 2 months. Omicron to Omicron - 1 month. Up until now the shortest gap I had heard of was 23 days.

The recent article in the New Scientist "How quickly can you catch covid-19 again?". I have a few issues with it which I will highlight * and discuss but I glad to see someone is actually reporting one of our, as long haulers, biggest fears. REINFECTION.

"A prior infection appears to offer some protection, but it is unclear for how long, or whether reinfections are guaranteed to be mild".

As the omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread, many people who have already contracted the virus once are picking it up again.

(* only once before? not 4 times before? is this gaslighting people who had infections prior to testing? *).

But a key question remains unresolved: for how long after a covid-19 infection are people likely to be protected from reinfection?

A lot hinges on the answer, as new omicron subvariants called BA.4 and BA.5 are on the rise in South Africa. It is still unclear if this will translate into a large wave in that country or elsewhere.

With some infections, such as measles, if someone has had the disease once, they rarely catch it a second time. Coronaviruses don’t seem to provoke such “sterilising immunity”, although a first infection does reduce people’s risk of a second one.

(* as with the common cold, itself a coronavirus, our bodies do not make long lasting immunity so I am dubious about this statement* - the research it was taken from only followed people up for 9 months).

In unvaccinated people, for instance, a first infection reduces people’s risk of a second by about 85 per cent, according to a large US study. This is similar to the level of protection provided by two doses of the mRNA covid-19 vaccines and was stable over the nine months of the study. “I was surprised that we found such a high level of protection,” says Jessica Ridgway at the University of Chicago. ( * me too Jessica - see previous comment on immunity and coronaviruses *).

Ridgway’s study was done while the delta variant was the dominant virus strain circulating globally, though. Omicron causes more reinfections than past variants, because of mutations in its spike protein that help it to evade immunity. During the UK’s recent omicron wave, reinfections were 16 times more likely than during the previous delta wave, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

This still doesn’t tell us how long most people can expect to wait between covid-19 infections, however. Indeed, it isn’t yet possible to calculate this figure with any accuracy, although we can get a hint from existing data. For instance, the ONS has looked at reinfections in the UK, covering the whole of the pandemic up to mid-December 2021, when omicron had been dominant for several weeks. The study found the interval between reinfections ranged from 90 to 650 days, with the average being 343 days, or nearly one year.

(* hmm not what I heard or experienced *).

But these figures could have two sources of error. First, they could be too low an estimate because many people haven’t yet had two infections. When they have, and their data can be added to the calculations, the average interval between infections should increase.

Second, some reinfections will be going unrecognised, as the ONS classes someone as being reinfected only if more than 90 days has passed since a previous infection confirmed by a PCR test.

(* PCR test? where does one get one of those now?*).

That is because these tests can lead to false-positive results within this period. This approach “identifies the majority of reinfections while excluding those people who may still have virus detected for some time after their initial infection”, says Helen Campbell at the UK Health Security Agency.

(* oh so now even though no one has to self isolate with an active Covid infection they are saying the virus/virus particles may persist? Thus gaslighting long haulers again*).

But reinfections within 90 days can happen, as shown by a study in Denmark, which experienced a surge of omicron beginning in November 2021, caused by peaks of omicron subvariants BA.1 and BA.2 merging into each other. Morten Rasmussen at the Statens Serum Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark, and his colleagues managed to find 47 people who were infected with both variants, with intervals of 20 to 60 days. “It does seem to be rare,” says Rasmussen.

(* nope you are just not asking the right people*).

A reason why there is so much interest in the reinfection question is concern that repeated covid-19 infections might have a cumulative toll on people’s health. Studies suggest that subsequent bouts with the coronavirus are less severe than the first. Research in Qatar, for instance, found that second infections were linked with a 90 per cent lower chance of leading to hospitalisation or death than first ones.

(* gaslighting those of us with Long Covid as not discussing long term effects of an acute Covid infection *).

But that is no guarantee of safety, says Stephen Griffin at the University of Leeds, UK, who is a member of iSAGE, a group that offers independent scientific advice on covid-19 to the government. It is still unclear how likely people are to develop long-lasting symptoms from an infection, but if someone catches covid-19 several times then, overall, their chance of long covid may rise, says Griffin. “The less likely things are more likely to happen with a greater number of times you get reinfected,” he says.

Rasmussen believes it is too soon to know the effect of repeat infections on people’s risk of long covid or anything else. “It feels like [the pandemic] has been going on for hundreds of years, but it’s really been an incredibly short amount of time,” he says. “But it does not look as if it’s going to go away.”


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