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Epidemiologists: COVID-19 infection doesn’t protect you from reinfections

Click to play video: 'Epidemiologists: COVID-19 infection doesn’t protect you from reinfections' Epidemiologists: COVID-19 infection doesn’t protect you from reinfections
Epidemiologists say the COVID-19 reinfection period could be shorter with the new Omicron variants. Abigail Turner reports. – Apr 19, 2022

Andrea McLean was shocked when she saw double lines on her rapid antigen test again.

“You go to the internet, like, is re-infection possible, how concerned should I be,” McLean said.

She first got COVID-19 in the beginning of March and tested  positive again last week a month after her initial infection.

“Kind of was surprised even when the symptoms started again, to actually get a positive test again.”

Epidemiologists say the reinfection period could be shorter with the new Omicron variants.

Read more: Reinfection risk: Omicron appears to produce shorter-lived immunity, experts say

“There’s an ability for these variants to get around some of those early immune responses. That means that we don’t have that same level of protection against infection that we had prior to this,” says Jason Kindrachuk assistant professor and chair of emerging viruses at the University of Manitoba.

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“If we get infected it’s not the next day that your immune system goes back up to 100 per cent or close to high levels, it takes time,” he says. “You either get exposed to a virus or get re-infected or infected for the first time, it’s going to take time for your immune system to build back up after that.”

Immunity for COVID is similar to getting a common cold, where you can become infected multiple times, says Cynthia Carr an epidemiologist and founder of EPI Research.

Read more: COVID-19 sixth wave: 5 ways Canadians can reduce and evaluate health risks

“This is not the chicken pox. This is not the kind of illness where you’re one and done,” she says.

Purposefully putting yourself in a situation to contract COVID-19 poses a bigger risk than just to yourself, she says.

“The more people who get exposed or transmit the virus, the more opportunity there is for more variants.”

Becoming sick with COVID-19 again shortly after initial infection and recovery is possible, she says.

Read more: It may be possible for people who got Omicron to be reinfected with it, Ontario experts say

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“It can be the case that that virus is still hiding in your body at very low levels and then you might get run down or something else happens and there’s a stress reaction and your immune response isn’t as good and that virus can rear its head.”

Both epidemiologists agree that getting a vaccine, wearing masks and social distancing are your best defence for not getting COVID-19

Luckily for McLean, she credits the vaccine for her mild symptoms, but wants her experience to serve as a warning for others.

“Keep your guard up, even if it is just mild. Thankfully I think the vaccine protected us from many severities but, at the same time, I would not be looking forward to going through this again any time soon,” she says.

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