A study published Thursday found that the risk of serious health problems, including death and hospitalization, increases with COVID-19 reinfection, regardless of vaccination status.
“Reinfection with COVID-19 raises the risk of both acute outcomes as well as long-term COVID,” Dr. Ziyad al-Aly, Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. This was true for boosted, unvaccinated, and boosted individuals.”
These findings were based on data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which was collected between March 1, 2020, and April 6, 2022. They included 443,588 patients who had one SARS-CoV-2 infection, 40,947 people with multiple infections, and 5.3 million non-infected. The majority of study subjects were men.
Patients who had been infected with COVID once or more had a nearly doubled chance of dying and an almost tripled chance of being hospitalized. According to Nature Medicine, they also faced increased risks of developing neurological disorders such as heart disease, brain damage, blood problems, kidney disease, diabetes, bone and muscle problems, and even cancer.
Al-Aly, who was the study’s leader, stated that even if someone has had a prior infection, they still have the potential for adverse outcomes upon reinfection.
The study revealed that people with repeated infections are more likely than ever to have lung problems, suffer from heart disease, and have a 60% higher risk of developing neurological disorders. This is in contrast to patients who were only infected once. These higher risks were evident in the first month following reinfection, but they were still apparent six months later.
Researchers found that repeat infections had an increased risk and burden of cumulative infection, regardless of differences in COVID-19 variants like Omicron, Delta, and BA.5.
Al-Aly explained to Reuters that he had noticed a lot more patients come into the clinic with an aura of invincibility. “They asked, ‘Does it matter to get a reinfection?’ It does matter, and the answer is yes.
He said that ahead of the holiday season, which includes indoor and outdoor gatherings, people should be aware of the possibility of reinfection and take precautions.
Al-Aly stated that while we don’t recommend any draconian measures for flying, it is a good idea to wear a mask if you are going on a plane. Consider that someone near you may have a weak immune response, so if you are in a supermarket, a mask might be a good idea to help them.