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Study finds COVID reinfection increases risk of lasting health problems

Posted at 6:39 AM, Aug 09, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-09 09:39:09-04

A new study shows reinfection of COVID-19 could increase your risk of lasting health problems — and the risks are not lessened the second time around, even if you're vaccinated.

As the potent Omicron BA5 variant pushes through the community, even the vaccinated and people who got COVID early on are getting sick again, some for a third and even fourth time.

Doctors at Washington University St. Louis looked at medical records of more than 5.6 million people treated in the VA health system. They found those with two or more infections had more than twice the risk of dying and three times the risk of being hospitalized within six months. They also had higher risks for lung and heart problems, fatigue, digestive and kidney disorders, diabetes, and neurologic problems.

Researchers also found the risk gets higher with each new COVID reinfection.

ABC15 Health Insider Dr. Shad Marvasti says that's a major shift in typical virus behavior where we often build up an immunity each time we get sick.

"Even if it ends up being mild, you could end up with risk factors down the line that you normally wouldn't have with cold or flu," he said

The study notes older people or those with pre-existing health conditions remain the most likely to get reinfected.

Dr. Shad says getting vaccinated and boosted still reduces your risk of that first infection and hospitalization if you do get COVID. He says masking up indoors among crowds is the best way to prevent getting it again.

This is the first time a study of this kind has been able to be done as reinfections have become more common. Read the full publication here.