COVID reinfections look like surging within the newest Omicron wave. Here is what we all know
When Lyndall Heather caught COVID-19 for a 3rd time this yr, she initially did not imagine she had it.
Simply six weeks on from her second COVID an infection, the Darwin nurse was nicely inside the immune interval that precluded her from testing.
“I simply thought it is fairly unlikely, it is most likely simply the chilly,” she stated.
However after changing into severely unwell, she went for a PCR take a look at and discovered she had contracted a separate COVID-19 an infection.
“Even my supervisor discovered it complicated. I suppose issues are always altering,” Ms Heather stated.
Hampered by lengthy COVID signs like fatigue and mind fog, Ms Heather stated her newest reinfection has left her anxious for the long run.
“I really feel like I am unable to presumably get it a fourth time however sadly now that I’ve had it a 3rd time, it is a very actual likelihood that I may get it once more,” she stated.
How frequent is COVID reinfection?
Ms Heather is considered one of hundreds of Australians who’ve now battled COVID-19 a number of instances, however dependable figures on reinfections are laborious to seek out.
Counting the reinfections depends closely on self-reported knowledge submitted to well being departments in every state when somebody assessments constructive on a RAT, figures which have been traditionally under-reported.
Ms Heather’s second COVID-19 an infection was asymptomatic and was solely picked up by routine office testing.
Well being authorities imagine the true variety of Australians who’ve been contaminated is far larger than official tallies.
States hardest hit by COVID-19 resembling New South Wales and Victoria have tough figures detailing reinfections within the tens of hundreds.
Different states, resembling Tasmania, have solely not too long ago begun monitoring reinfection or, within the case of Queensland, are usually not monitoring it in any respect.
Regardless of an absence of quantitative knowledge, viewers submissions to the ABC present a big swathe of Australians are battling their second and even third COVID infections.
Trying internationally might present perception into how reinfections have surged in 2022.
What can we find out about reinfections globally?
A two-year examine within the Serbian province of Vojvodina discovered a pointy enhance in COVID-19 reinfections following the rise of the Omicron variant firstly of 2022.
Stanford College epidemiologist John Ioannidis co-authored the examine, revealed in The Lancet Regional Well being – Europe, and stated the analysis was an effort to fight the dearth of documentation about reinfection.
“It is clear that the variety of reinfections, very like the variety of infections, is underestimated,” Professor Ioannidis stated.
The outcomes from the examine had been staggering.
Of the 13,792 COVID reinfections recorded within the province between March 2020 and January 2022, virtually 87 per cent occurred in January 2022 alone.
Virtually all third infections recorded within the examine additionally occurred after October 2021, through the interval of Omicron circulation.
It is illuminating knowledge that factors in the direction of the explosive transmissibility of Omicron when it enters a neighborhood.
Knowledge suggests the preliminary BA.1 Omicron pressure is 3 times extra transmissible than the unique Wuhan pressure of COVID.
Professor Ioannidis stated that whereas elevated instances could possibly be an artefact of elevated testing, the influence of the Omicron pressure was evident.
“It’s actual, with Omicron now we have way more infections,” he stated.
“I feel this most likely continues downstream with the BA.4 and BA.5 strains that at the moment are dominant in lots of nations together with Australia.”
Early knowledge from South Africa suggests the BA.4 and BA.5 strains could possibly be virtually six instances as transmissible because the Wuhan pressure.
Chief medical officer of the government-funded healthdirect service Nirvana Luckraj stated COVID infections may now happen extra quickly in succession than earlier than.
“The COVID sub-variants usually tend to evade the immunity gained from earlier an infection, and reinfection is feasible simply weeks following a previous an infection,” Dr Luckraj stated.
Consequently, Australia has now dramatically shortened its reinfection interval for testing from 12 to 4 weeks.
Who’s getting reinfected?
The Serbian examine discovered reinfected sufferers had been considerably youthful, extra generally feminine and extra steadily employed as healthcare staff.
Australia’s well being workforce is predominantly feminine and the common employee is aged between 20 and 34.
It means individuals like 28-year-old nurse Ms Heather are among the almost definitely to be reinfected.
Professor Ioannidis stated extra common testing schedules for working younger adults and better interactions with others was mirrored within the numbers.
“I feel it is most likely a mirrored image of the truth that youthful individuals, significantly youthful adults, had a lot larger ranges of publicity,” Professor Ioannidis stated.
“The excellent news is that for that inhabitants, the danger of significant illness may be very low.”
What are the well being impacts of reinfection?
There’s conflicting knowledge on simply how far more harmful second and third COVID infections are.
A United States examine of just about 39,000 reinfections from the Division of Veteran Affairs discovered “reinfection provides danger of all-cause mortality and hostile well being outcomes”.
“Research are displaying that reinfection has larger well being dangers, significantly for these with underlying well being situations, and is linked with a better danger of lengthy COVID,” Dr Luckraj stated.
Nonetheless, Professor Ioannidis stated knowledge from the Serbian examine appeared to indicate a much less extreme well being influence from reinfections.
“What now we have seen, not less than in our evaluation, is that with reinfection the danger of hospitalisation is 4 instances decrease in comparison with the unique an infection and the danger of dying is 10 instances decrease,” he stated.
“Up to now it looks as if [reinfection] may be very frequent, but it surely’s not extreme.”
Will the reinfections ever finish?
Given the spike in Omicron reinfections virtually two years after the pandemic, issues have shifted to COVID’s subsequent evolution.
Dr Luckraj stated the BA.4 and BA.5 sub-variants would seemingly not mark the tip of the virus.
“The pure historical past of the virus is that it always evolves to outlive, so I feel we will anticipate to see extra sub-variants rising,” Dr Luckraj stated.
Professor Ioannidis stated whereas the virus was right here to remain, Australians shouldn’t panic.
“There isn’t any assure of what the subsequent variant will seem like however what now we have seen to this point is commensurate with an evolution to an endemic part,” he stated.
“We will dwell with that. It could be great if we may eliminate this coronavirus utterly, but it surely’s not possible.”