Can I Catch COVID-19 Again? Science Says ‘Yes – And Then Some’

June 28, 2022
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How many times can you catch COVID-19 again? Truth is, anyone can catch COVID multiple times in a year, even if he/she has been fully vaccinated. 

“I would not be surprised if we see people get infected more than once a year,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical adviser to President Joe Biden, in an interview with NBC News. “Sometimes, you’ll even hear a case of someone catching COVID-19 again just four weeks after surviving the initial infection.” 

Furthermore, some of the newest sub-variants of Omicron have now evolved, targeting the lungs. This new development has health experts worried that another wave of COVID infections is likely, regardless of vaccination status. 

Note: With breakthrough infections possible, it’s more important than ever to follow safety precautions. Don’t neglect to get tested when you experience any COVID-19 symptoms, and wear masks in places with high transmission. 

Why do people catch COVID-19 again?

As of this writing, more than 276,000 individuals have been reinfected with COVID-19 in New York State alone. 

As per Dr. Akiko Iwasaki, professor of immunobiology at Yale University: “It is not unusual for COVID-19 virus to cause reinfections, that’s just how this virus works.”

One reason people are catching COVID-19 again is that an individual’s initial infection was from a different variant. Before the arrival of Omicron, the likelihood of reinfection was 84% less compared to today. 

Omicron variants have become adept at evading our body’s natural immunity. And, given that antibodies from COVID-19 vaccines wane over time, COVID-19 cases are only likely to continue to climb. 

What’s more, statistics show that people who are unvaccinated continue to be the most susceptible to reinfection.

Dr. Scott Weisenberg, clinical associate professor of medicine at NYU Grossman School of Medicine and director of the travel medicine program, told Verywell that the emerging variants have played a role in the rise of reinfections. This was true, he said, even for those who’ve received a booster shot.

“Since Omicron and all the new variants after, reinfections have become more common despite people’s prior infection status or vaccination,” said Weisenberg. “While they’re still protected against severe disease from vaccines and boosters, they don’t have as much protection that lasts as long against reinfections.”

How many times can you be reinfected with COVID-19?

Experts say it’s impossible to predict how many times an individual can get reinfected with COVID-19.

Dr. Kelly Gebo, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins Medicine specializing in COVID-19 and epidemiology, also said in an interview with Verywell that:

“It’s likely that almost all of us are going to become infected at some point with the virus because there are new variants that develop, ” said Gebo. “There’s been some speculation that the virus is mutating roughly every four to six months. So it is possible to become reinfected multiple times within a year.” 

Initial reports from the CDC state that COVID-19 survivors have at least 50% immunity for one to two years from the initial infection. However, Dr. Weisenberg urges citizens to stay cognizant of the dangers posed by the virus. 

Are COVID-19 reinfections severe?

Most of the time, COVID-19 reinfections will be less severe than previous infections. This is because our immune system has gained more antibodies from surviving the infection and from the immunity provided by vaccines.

“Normally, the reinfections are milder,” said Iwasaki. “It is less likely that you get sicker the second time around.”

Dr. Fauci added that COVID-19 vaccines continue to do well against severe infection.

However, certain individuals are also proving to be more susceptible to the health harms posed by the virus. In effect, it’s a lottery when it comes to knowing how much damage COVID-19 will do to any given person.

Moreover, the elderly, children, unvaccinated, and people with underlying medical conditions can be more vulnerable to reinfections.  

* No studies have yet been concluded on whether reinfection will lead to long-COVID.

Final thoughts

After surviving your initial battle with COVID-19, there is always a chance you could get it again. Luckily, there are preventive measures you can take to protect yourself and others.

  • Get the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shot. Health authorities say that anyone aged 12 years and older should get vaccinated against COVID-19
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces regularly
  • Wear a well-fitting mask, especially in places with high transmission levels 
  • Avoid public areas with limited airflow and ventilation
  • If you must gather in groups, make sure you gather in open or outdoor areas
  • Frequently wash your hands with soap and water. You can also use hand sanitizers or rubbing alcohol in case you don’t have soap or water.
  • Get tested immediately if you have any symptoms of COVID-19

Research is still ongoing to find the solution to reduce the probability of people catching COVID again. CDC is conducting ongoing research to learn more about COVID-19 reinfections

As we wait for further data, we can implement the preventive measures mentioned above to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. To reiterate, if you do start to show symptoms of COVID-19, make sure to get tested regularly. This will help stop the spread of the virus and protect our communities. 
If you do test positive, isolate yourself from others immediately and don’t panic. Consult with your physician about treatment options and continue to monitor your symptoms.

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