Does it seem like people are getting COVID for the first time now? Here’s what we know

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Did you recently contract COVID-19 for the first time during the pandemic? Those who have avoided the virus for more than two years may be disappointed to catch it during the current, relatively mild wave. But various factors contribute to this unofficial and anecdotal trend.

Dr. Dana Hawkinson, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Kansas Health System, spoke to The Star about these so-called COVID “newbies” and what we can all do to stay safe.

“I’ve heard more and more stories about people who survived two years without being infected with SARS-CoV-2 and now they are infected,” he said during a briefing. hurry.

How many current COVID-19 patients are having the disease for the first time?

We do not know. The popularity of home testing and a patchwork of ways to report positive test results have made case numbers in general extremely difficult to track, while tracking “first-time buyers” is even more difficult.

“I don’t believe there’s any forward-looking data on who gets it and who hasn’t had it before,” Hawkinson said. “It would be very difficult to [determine]number one, because we don’t even have an accurate count of the total number of cases.”

Indeed, more and more people are testing at home, and mass testing events and lab-based COVID testing have declined significantly since the initial surge of the omicron variant, leaving state and CDC in the dark about the number of positive cases actually available.

Hawkinson added that while retrospective data on “first-time buyers” might become available in the future, it would likely take a year or more to collect and report.

“Even this is going to be difficult because you are going to have [to] identify and know with certainty that this person did not have [COVID] before,” he said.

If you develop symptoms of COVID-19, it’s very important to get tested as soon as possible, he added. A positive test result will give you access to new antiviral treatments like the highly effective Paxlovid pill, reducing your risk of becoming seriously ill.

Why are some people now catching COVID-19 after avoiding it for more than two years?

Since most knowledge of recent early cases is anecdotal, it is difficult to say how widespread this phenomenon is and what causes it. Dr Hawkinson said there was likely a combination of factors to blame. Here are a few he listed:

  • Many people are relaxing their habits of mask-wearing and social distancing.
  • Vaccinated or previously infected people may have the virus but be asymptomatic, leading them to pass it on to others without knowing it.
  • Recent subvariants of the omicron strain, including BA.2.12.1, BA.4, and BA.5, may evade immune system antibodies better than earlier variants.
  • The arrival of summer has brought more travel and social gatherings where the virus can spread.

The CDC lists the counties that make up the Kansas City metropolitan area in the “high” risk category for community transmission of COVID-19. They are among nearly 79% of U.S. counties with this rating.

If I was vaccinated, why did I still get COVID? Does this mean that vaccines don’t work?

No. Existing COVID-19 vaccines are safe and effective against the worst effects of the virus and work exactly as intended.

“Vaccines were never meant to prevent infection,” Hawkinson told the Star. “It provides some mild protection against infection, especially for that short period of time, say four to six weeks after your vaccine dose. But…for six months or more, we see that you have good immunity and good protection against hospitalization, serious illness and death.”

Hawkinson added that new formulations of the vaccine are already in development and are currently undergoing trials. These new vaccines could include increased protection against omicron and its subvariants. News of these new vaccines could be released as early as the next month or two.

If you are wondering how long your wakeup call will last, we wrote this guide.

What can I do to avoid catching COVID-19 for the first time?

Advice for avoiding COVID-19 hasn’t changed: Hawkinson advised practicing social distancing, wearing a mask indoors and avoiding large gatherings. It is also important to get vaccinated with an mRNA vaccine (Pfizer or Moderna) if you haven’t already.

Booster shots are also extremely important in strengthening your body’s defenses against the virus. You can receive a booster as early as four months after completing your first round of vaccination, and some people are also eligible for a second booster afterwards.

Why are so many vaccinated people catching COVID-19 lately?

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