Some Albertans are twice at risk of catching COVID-19, infectious disease doctors say. Nation World News

Some Albertans are twice at risk of catching COVID-19, infectious disease doctors say.  CBC News

Even if you already have COVID-19, you’re not invincible, Alberta infectious disease experts say, because some people are catching the virus for a second time.

The new subtype of Omicron, which has become the dominant strain in Alberta, can cause breakthrough infections in people who already have the virus.

While reinfection is possible, immunity due to vaccines and antibodies from previous infections is protecting many people from severe disease, said Craig Jane, an associate professor of microbiology, immunology and infectious diseases at the University of Calgary.

“However, the good news is that many of these reinfections lead to minor illness. So this is something we have to watch out for, but in general, there is nothing to panic at this time,” he said.

Infectious disease physician at the University of Alberta, Dr. Leonora Sachsinger said that re-infection can occur as soon as a vaccine is successful.

“You’ve got an immune response to it. And then, for whatever reason, that immune response isn’t completely protective,” she said.

However, a COVID infection can have a “self-enhancing” effect, she noted.

And for those who caught COVID-19 during alpha or delta waves, there is a “significantly significant risk of reinfection,” she said.

Although the combination of prior infection and vaccination is strong enough, Saxinger said it is possible for people who have contracted Omicron to become ill from a subtype of the virus — but this is extremely rare.

“No one is going to be invincible,” she said, but apart from minor cases in people who have been reinfected, vaccination also reduces the risk of hospitalization or death.

“It’s all a game of odds right now. And your own particular risk is the summation of your vaccinations and infections and behavior.”

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