The pandemic began with recovery from the coronavirus infection. This was perhaps a reason to be cautious and optimistic. research proved this over time after Covid. However, it also revealed that immunity decreases so recovery from the virus was not a one-and done deal. How should people who have been vaccinated consider their immunity once they have recovered from a breakthrough illness?
Some are now wondering if the combination vaccination and infection (known as hybrid immunity) will provide some protection. Is it enough to allow for relief? My Wellness Firm spoke to experts to offer advice for the newly-recovered.
What is the impact of a Covid-19-infected person on my immunity?
The ability of your body to prevent you getting sick from bacteria, viruses or parasites is called immunity . If you are infected, you can avoid getting ill. This protection can last months or years depending on the type and severity of the infection. People who have recovered from measles are immune for the rest of their lives. Most illnesses don’t end with one treatment. The immunity to Covid-19 may last for months but it becomes less with time. The exact duration of the illness is still being researched.
Every person’s immune system and body reacts differently to viruses. “After Covid, infection is not something that vaccines can deliver in a consistent way to large populations,” says Theodore Bailey, chief of the division for infectious diseases at the Greater Baltimore Medical Center. The shots are standardized, even though every person’s immune system may react differently to the vaccine. Some people could experience serious side effects while others might not.
It’s hard to determine how many viruses you have been exposed to and how many times it has reproduced in your body. It’s difficult to predict how well you’ll be protected. Bailey states, “One person’s infection is not another’s.”
Studies have shown that people who had recovered after Covid-19 infections were less likely to be infected again, at least for a few months. Omicron, however, behaved differently. A non-peer-reviewed study was conducted during England’s omicron waves. It found that omicron could evade immunity from previous infections or two vaccine doses. Another non-peer-reviewed Danish study also found that omicron could evade immune responses in both vaccinated or unvaccinated individuals (though a small South African research suggested that an omicron infection may be protective against delta, which is now only a minority of cases in the US).
According to research, breakthrough infections can provide an increase in immunity for people who have been vaccinated but get sick. William Schaffner is a professor at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He says that people who have been through both illness and vaccination have higher levels of antibodies. “Higher levels of antibody are associated with longer duration protection,” Schaffner says.
Is it safe for me to go to bars and restaurants after Covid-19?
Bailey states that it is extremely unlikely that you will be infected again with the same variant of Covid-19 within a few months after Covid-19. A scientific review examining published research on Covid-19 immunity found that antibody levels start to decrease three months after an infection. But, if you are immune to one variant of the virus, it doesn’t mean you will be immune to all others. After you have recovered from delta, it is possible for you to quickly reinfect yourself with omicron. A breakthrough infection does not mean you can live your life as if it were 2019.
Bailey suggests that you think of immunity as being a bit like an airbag in a car. There is always a chance of reinfection. While airbags provide protection against serious injury to drivers, risky driving behaviors such as speeding, texting and careless driving can negate the benefits. Similar results can be expected for post-infection immunity. While antibodies offer protection, persistent high-risk behaviors like unmasked drinking in crowded bars increase the risk of reinfection.
However, this doesn’t mean that recently recovered individuals don’t have some wiggle room. They have to decide how much risk is acceptable. Bailey states that most people who have been vaccinated and aren’t immunocompromised will experience a low risk of serious reinfection after Covid within the first few months. This means they can travel around the world with the knowledge that a trip to the gym won’t cause them any harm.
Bailey states that “they do have a risk that’s comparable to other things we tolerate,” such as driving on highways. Going out to a restaurant or traveling to it becomes safer. It’s safer to wear masks and avoid high-density activities like raves and mosh pits. These things can increase your risk again.
What are some other things I can do now safely after Covid? And what precautions should I take?
Bailey advises that you take precautions such as masking and staying away from crowds if you are thinking about getting on a plane. He says, “Even though my airbag is on, I will still put my seatbelt in, and I’m going to be paying attention to traffic.” “As I take this extra risk, I think about what I can do in my immediate surroundings to limit unnecessary elevation of risk.”
Schaffner also agrees that people who have recently been released from prison should be cautious around crowds. He recommends that they continue to keep their masks on indoors. He says that it is not recommended for them to be carefree and say, “Okay, I got a get out jail free card, so I can do what I want,” Schaffner suggests that you should not decide to take a vacation after an illness, particularly if you are visiting an elderly relative or friend with immunocompromised health.
Although Schaffner believes it is unlikely that you will get infected and spread the virus, it is still possible. You are more likely to get re-infected and spread the virus the longer you wait after your recovery. The CDC recommends that anyone with a positive test be placed in isolation, even if they are not symptomatic.
Schaffner suggests that people should be more cautious about their post-infection behaviors because of the possibility of new variants. The world could face another round of wait-and-see to see how vaccination, protection from previous infection, and hybrid immunity are able to withstand the new variant.
Schaffner states that ultimately, it comes down to the level of risk you are willing to take after Covid-19. Everything is at risk if you are 72 years old and have diabetes. He says that this is what he would tell all his patients. “If you are 28 years old, in good health, and have not had any complications, I would first ask you, “Are you vaccinated?” But, because there is no way to know if you will get sick, he suggests that everyone wear masks indoors.
The overall risk of contracting the virus will decrease as the cases subside. You can also expect to feel a sigh of relief for the first few weeks after infection, provided you avoid any unnecessary risks such as crowded dance floors and keep your family safe from other people.
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