Resurgence of the virus: When COVID-19 strikes again and again

For New York musician Erica Mancini, COVID-19 has created repeat performances.

March 2020. Last December. And again this May.

The 31-year-old singer, who was vaccinated and strengthened, said: “I was shocked to find out that I could be infected forever.” “I don’t want to be sick every month or every two months.”

But medical experts warn that as the pandemic drags on and the virus evolves, re-infections are increasing, and some people may be more than twice as affected. Emerging research suggests they may be at greater risk for health problems.

Although some states collect data on re-infections in general, there is no comprehensive data on people who have contracted COVID-19 more than twice. In New York, for example, about 277,000 of the total 5.8 million infections were reinfected during the pandemic. Experts say the true numbers are much higher because many at-home COVID-19 tests go unreported.

Recently, several public figures have been infected again. US Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau They said they got COVID-19 for the second time, and a U.S. senator. Roger Wicker Mississippi State says it’s the third time he’s tested positive. All said they had been fully vaccinated, while Trudeau and Becerra said they had received additional vaccines.

“Not so long ago it was almost unheard of, but now it’s commonplace” to have two, three or even four times of COVID-19, said Dr. Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Institute for Translational Research. “Unless we find better defenses, we’re going to see a lot more of this.”

Why? Experts say immunity to previous infections and vaccinations wanes over time, leaving people vulnerable.

Also, the virus has evolved to become more contagious. A UK study found that the risk of reinfection was seven times higher with omicron variants compared to the most common case of delta. Scientists now believe that the omicron mutants, who create the vast majority of jobs in the US, are particularly skilled infection when receiving immunity from vaccination or previous infection, especially during the initial micro wave. US health officials are considering whether to change the boosters to better match the latest changes in the coronavirus.

When Mancini first contracted COVID-19, he and his girlfriend came down with a fever and were sick for two weeks. He was unable to get tested at the time, but a few months later he had an antibody test that showed he had been infected.

“It was very scary because it was so new and we knew people were dying from it,” Mancini said. “We’re really sick. I haven’t been this sick in a long time.’

He received the Pfizer vaccine in the spring of 2021 and thought he was protected from another infection, especially if he had a previous illness. But while such “hybrid immunity” can provide strong protection, it doesn’t guarantee that someone won’t get reinfected with COVID-19.

Mancini’s second match during the huge omicron wave started with a sore throat. He initially tested negative, but still felt ill while driving to a concert four hours away. So he drove to Walgreens and took an express test in his car. It was positive, he said, “so I turned the car around and went back to Manhattan.”

It’s milder, “worst meal of my life,” stuffy nose, sneezing, and coughing.

The most recent illness was milder, with sinus pressure, brain fog, tingling, and fatigue. A positive home test and PCR test confirmed this despite his Moderna booster shot.

Mancini has no known medical conditions that pose a risk for COVID-19. She takes precautions like wearing a mask at the grocery store and on the subway. But he usually doesn’t wear a mask on stage.

“I’m a singer, and I’m in these packed bars and these little clubs, some of them don’t have fans, and I’m just around a lot of people,” Mancini said. , he also plays accordion and percussion. “This is the price I have paid for the hard work I have done over the last few years. This is how I make a living.”

Scientists don’t know exactly why some people get reinfected and others don’t, but think several things may play a role: health and biology, exposure to certain variants, how much the virus is spreading in the community, vaccination status and behavior. British researchers found that people were more likely to be reinfected if they were unvaccinated, young, or had a mild infection for the first time.

Scientists also don’t know when someone becomes infected after a previous exposure. And there’s no guarantee that each infection will be milder than the last.

“I’ve seen it go both ways,” said Dr. Wesley Long, a pathologist at Houston Methodist. In general, infections that occur after vaccination are milder, he said.

Doctors say vaccination and immunization are the best defenses against severe COVID-19 and death, and there is some evidence that it reduces the likelihood of reinfection.

At this point, there haven’t been enough documented cases of repeated infections “to know what the long-term consequences are,” said Dr. Peter Hotes, dean of Baylor University’s School of Tropical Medicine.

But a large, new study Using peer-reviewed data from the US Department of Veterans Affairs, reinfections are more likely to have serious consequences and increase the risk of health problems such as lung problems, heart disease and diabetes compared to a first infection. . The risks were shown when someone became ill with COVID-19, but persisted after severe illness.

He suffered from dizziness, headaches and sinus problems after Mancini’s last match, but he also suffered from insomnia due to his busy schedule. In the past week, he’s held 16 shows and rehearsals — and there’s no room for another COVID-19 rerun.

“It wasn’t fun,” he said. “I don’t want to take it back.”

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The Associated Press Division of Health and Science receives support from the Division of Science Education at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. AP is solely responsible for all content.

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