Sunday, September 25, 2022

Can You Catch Omicron Twice? What We Know Now

  • A new study found that there is a low risk of developing COVID-19 from the BA.2. version of the Omicron variant if you already had a different Omicron case.
  • Of 2 million infections reported in Denmark from November to February, researchers focused on patients who tested positive twice from 20 to 60 days apart.
  • Researchers found only 187 cases of reinfection, with just 47 instances of BA.2 reinfection occurring shortly after BA.1 infection.

The “stealth variant” of COVID-19, also known as BA.2, was responsible for almost 4 percent of reported cases last week, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A recent study suggests we can experience reinfections with BA.2, but the risk is slight, and BA.2 likely won’t lead to another pandemic surge.

Researchers from the Statens Serum Institut in Denmark analyzed recent COVID-19 infections, many of which involved the highly transmissible BA.2 subvariant that’s currently passing through there.

Of roughly 2 million infections reported in Denmark from November to February, researchers focused on patients who tested positive twice from 20 to 60 days apart, and experienced infections previously labeled a subvariant by genomic surveillance.

Researchers found only 187 cases of reinfection, with just 47 instances of BA.2 reinfection occurring shortly after BA.1 infection. Most of these cases were in young, unvaccinated people with mild symptoms.

“Unless there is a clearly documented medical contraindication, everyone should get vaccinated,” Jens Rueter, MD, chief medical officer at the Jackson Laboratory, told Healthline said.

He pointed out that if you already had an infection, your immunity against current and new variants will be greatly enhanced by vaccination.

“It is very likely that vaccinations will remain very effective against severe disease,” said Rueter.

He said this means that vaccinated individuals without immunocompromising health conditions, who protect others by following physical distancing and masking rules, should be able to live relatively undisrupted lives even while these new variants arise.

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Pia MacDonald, PhD, infectious disease epidemiologist at RTI International, a nonprofit research institute, said that this research shows how transmissible the Omicron variant was compared to previous coronavirus variants like Delta.

“Where Omicron was much more transmissible,” she said. She pointed out a person with Omicron BA.1, on average, passed the infection to more people than a person infected with Delta did

MacDonald said at this point in the pandemic, the virus is coming in waves with different variants, and this may continue in the near future.

Daniel Gluckstein, MD, board certified in infectious disease, at Pomona Valley Medical Center in California, said most of the Omicron reinfections were BA.2 and researchers found lower virus levels than in prior BA.1 infection.

“Reinfections with Omicron BA.2 or BA.1 were much more likely in younger unvaccinated persons, so vaccines were very effective in preventing the reinfections compared to prior infection alone,” he said.

Gluckstein explained this is why Omicron caused a dramatic wave of recent infections, but a less dramatic increase in severe disease and death than earlier COVID-19 variant strains.

Robert G. Lahita, MD, PhD, director of the Institute for Autoimmune and Rheumatic Disease at Saint Joseph Health, and author of “Immunity Strong,” pointed out that immunity in the population is so high now due to natural infection or vaccination, and he’s hopeful we won’t see the pandemic worsening.

However, he cautioned that other circulating variants mean we should maintain our guard.

“It’s still risky to be unvaccinated, and the reason is because the Delta variant, which is very serious and still out there,” Lahita said, also pointing out that the Omicron variant can still cause infection in people with immunodeficiency disease.

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According to Lahita, we don’t know how many people are immunodeficient, something that can happen due to innate genetic differences.

“You can have a lack of interferon, there are people out there genetically lacking in antiviral cytokinesyou can have a lack of natural killer T-cellshe said.

Lahita added that some people are simply born with a suppressed immune response.

“You could have an inborn error of immunity, [something] which is currently being researched at some universities,” he said. “That [research] is looking for an error in resistance against viral infection.”

Lahita focused it doesn’t matter if someone looks perfectly healthy, or is a “top-flight” 25-year-old athlete. He pointed out that it could be a life-threatening case for some people with immunodeficency.

Gluckstein said BA.2 is unlikely to cause a large wave of new COVID-19 infections and severe disease.

He added that increasing vaccine and booster uptake is the best way to:

  • reduce the risk of future waves of highly infectious and severe COVID-19 disease
  • allow us to continue to reduce COVID-19 rates and safely return to social activities without the need for masks and other COVID-19 restrictions

“Indoor masking and social distancing multiply the benefit of vaccines when local COVID-19 infection rates are high,” Gluckstein said.

Danish researchers have found we can experience reinfections from Omicron and its subvariant, called BA.2.

Experts say Omicron likely won’t result in a surge of severe illness, but we need to maintain our guard against new COVID-19 variants.

They also say vaccination and booster doses are key to protecting ourselves from Omicron and any future variants.


Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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