Since the COVID-19 pandemic began almost three years ago, scientists have learned that an initial infection can lead to short- and long-term health risks affecting nearly every organ system in the body.
They’ve also determined that people can get COVID-19 a second or a third time, despite acquiring natural antibodies after the first infection and receiving a vaccination and booster shots.
In a study from Washington University in St. Louis and elsewhere, scientists found the health consequences of reinfection.
They found that repeat SARS-CoV-2 infections contribute significant additional risk of adverse health conditions in multiple organ systems.
Such outcomes include hospitalization; disorders affecting the lungs, heart, brain, and the body’s blood, musculoskeletal and gastrointestinal systems; and even death. Reinfection also contributes to diabetes, kidney disease and mental health issues.
Additionally, the study indicated that the risk seems to increase with each infection. This means that even if you’ve had two COVID-19 infections, it’s better to avoid a third
Limiting exposure to the virus is especially important as the U.S. heads into the winter months, with new variants emerging, mutating and already causing an upswing in infections in some parts of the country.
In this study, the researchers analyzed about 5.8 million de-identified medical records in a database maintained by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the nation’s largest integrated health-care system. Patients represented multiple ages, races and sexes.
The researchers created a controlled data set of 5.3 million people who did not test positive for COVID-19 infection from March 1, 2020, through April 6, 2022.
Using the same time frame, the researchers also compiled a control group of more than 443,000 people who had tested positive for one COVID-19 infection, and another group of nearly 41,000 people who had two or more documented infections.
Of the latter group, most people had two or three infections, with a small number having had four infections and no one with five or more infections.
Statistical modeling was used to examine the health risks of repeat COVID-19 infections within the first 30 days after contracting the virus and up to six months after.
Overall, the researchers found that people with COVID-19 reinfections were twice as likely to die and three times more likely to be hospitalized than those with no reinfection.
Additionally, people with repeat infections were 3½ times more likely to develop lung problems, three times more likely to suffer heart conditions and 1.6 times more likely to experience brain conditions than patients who had been infected with the virus once.
If you care about COVID, please read studies about the cause of inflammation and clotting in severe COVID-19, and how vitamin B may help fight COVID-19.
For more information about COVID, please see recent studies that new nasal spray booster keeps COVID-19 at bay, and results showing your genes and blood type may help predict your risk of severe COVID-19.
The study was conducted by Ziyad Al-Aly et al and published in Nature Medicine.
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