You can get Kovid again. Here’s what to look for and tactics to help ease the way.

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who already have Covid-19, you’re probably wondering how long you will have immunity to the coronavirus. Before the epidemic, most people assumed that there was at least one side to being infected: you would be protected against exposure to the virus in the future. But as the latest wave moves westward and the virus shows no signs of easing, re-infection seems to be common. Meanwhile, many people are reporting second or even third infections with new forms.

Experts warn that exposure to the coronavirus – by vaccination or infection – does not mean that you are completely protected from future infections. Rather, the coronavirus is evolving to behave like its closely related cousins, causing common colds and coughs and infecting people repeatedly throughout life.

“I think, since the beginning of this epidemic, Kovid-19 has finally become an inevitable infection that everyone gets more than once, because that’s how a new respiratory virus is established in the human population,” he said. Amesh Adalja, an infectious disease specialist at Johns Hopkins University.

However, coronavirus still does not adapt to the clear season pattern like other common cold viruses. It can also cause debilitating symptoms that last for months or years in some people and claim the lives of millions of people. So what can you do to protect yourself, not just from infection, but from re-infection? We asked experts for answers to common questions.

Before Omicron, re-infection was rare. A team of scientists led by Weill Colonel Medicine-Qatar’s Laith Abu-Raddad estimated that the fight against delta or former coronavirus strains was about 90 percent effective in preventing re-infection, both vaccinated and non-vaccinated. “But Omicron has really changed that calculus,” said Dr. Abu-Raddad, an infectious disease epidemiologist.

After the emergence of Omicron, previous infections only provided about 50 percent protection against re-infection, Dr. Abu-Raddad’s research has shown. The coronavirus acquired so many mutations in its spike protein that newer versions have become more contagious and better able to avoid immunity. This means you can grab a version of Omicron after recovering from an old, non-Omicron variant. You may even get sick after getting a different version of the new Omicron subvariant.

Other factors also increase your risk of re-infection, starting with how long you have had covid. Immunity decreases after infection. A study published in October 2021 estimated that re-infection could occur 3 months after being infected with Covid-19. Although these results are based on the genome of the coronavirus and are responsible for the expected reduction in antibodies that can fight the virus, the study did not attribute the new variants, such as Omicron, to radically different ones from the old ones. Because of how different Omicron is, your protection can be compromised more quickly. In a study published in February that has not yet been peer-reviewed, Danish scientists found that some people were re-infected by Omicron’s BA.2 sublinease just 20 days after the original Omicron was infected with BA.1.

Since the virus is now infecting more people, you are more likely to come in contact and be re-infected, says Dr. Abu-Raddad. And while it’s not clear if some people are more susceptible to Covid-19 re-infection, researchers are beginning to find some clues. Those who are older or immunocompromised can produce very low or very poor quality antibodies, which puts them at risk of re-infection, Dr. Abu-Raddad said. And preliminary research shows that a small group of people have a genetic defect that cripples an important immune molecule called interferon type I, putting them at higher risk for severe covid symptoms. Further studies may find that such differences also play a role in re-infection.

For now, any new symptoms, including fever, sore throat, runny nose or changes in taste or smell, should be treated as possible cases of covid and should be checked to make sure you are positive again.

The good news is that once the virus goes beyond your primary antibody defense, your body may call on immune cells, such as T cells and B cells, to stop re-infection. T cells and B cells may take a few days to become active and start working, but they remember how to fight the virus based on previous exposure.

Shane Crowe, a virologist at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology in California, said, “Your immune system has all sorts of weapons to stop the virus from entering the front door.”

Many of these immune cells replicate their defenses, Dr. Croti said. This means that those who have been vaccinated and encouraged are specifically equipped to protect it from the coronavirus. Similarly, those who have been infected before are able to prevent the virus from replicating at high levels if they are re-infected. And most people who have been exposed to both vaccines and coronaviruses develop a hybrid immunity that can provide the best protection.

The result is that second or third infections can be smaller and less severe.

Dr Abu-Raddad, who is tracking re-infections among large groups of people in Qatar, has already begun to see this promising pattern in patient records: not one of the more than 1,300 re-infections identified by his team from the onset of the epidemic to May 2021 was hospitalized. , And no one was fatal.

But just because re-infections are less serious doesn’t mean they’re not terrible. You may still have a fever and feel body aches, brain haze and other symptoms. And there is no way to know if your symptoms will be chronic and long-lasting, says Dr. Adalza.

It is possible that each covid infection forces you to play Russian roulette, although some researchers estimate that the risk is highest after your first infection. One of the risk factors for long-term covidosis is having a high level of virus in your system early in the infection, and you are likely to have such a high viral load after you first become infected, says Dr. Abu-Raddad. In subsequent infections, your body is better prepared to fight the coronavirus so you may be able to keep the virus at a lower level until it is completely cleansed, he said.

Many tools and behaviors that help protect against infection can still help you avoid re-infection, says Dr. Abu-Raddad. “There is no magical solution against covid re-infection.”

For example, it is a good idea to get vaccinated and encouraged even after you have covid. You will have to wait a few weeks after the infection to take the shot. Vaccines will boost your antibody levels and research shows that they are effective in preventing serious consequences if you become ill again. “Scientific confidence in vaccine-induced immunity was much higher than infectious-induced immunity,” said Dr. Croty.

Additional measures, such as masks indoors and in crowded places, improve social distance and where possible ventilation, can provide another level of protection. But since most people and communities have largely eliminated these protections, the risk of becoming cowardly depends on the individuals making the decision based on when to take extra precautions and how much they want to avoid it.

“If you had an infection last week, you probably wouldn’t have to wear a mask,” said Dr. Adalza. “But once a month or more has passed since your infection and new variants have begun to spread in the United States, it may make sense for high-risk individuals to do so. People who are trying to avoid Covid because they are going on a cruise soon or need a negative PCR test for some other reason may consider taking precautions. Covid protections don’t have to be one-size-fits-all. “

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