New research has found that those who’ve been infected with COVID more than once are more likely to develop long COVID and other serious health problems. According to the study, which is published in Nature Medicine, being infected more than once significantly boosts your risk of hospitalization, or even dying from the virus.
The study, which was led by Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, an assistant professor at Washington University’s School of Medicine, was conducted to determine whether or not the risk of complications increases with COVID reinfections.
For the study, he and his team used data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair. In total, they looked at more than 519,000 people who tested positive for the virus between March 2020 and April 2022. Out of those people, over 40,000 were reinfected sometime between June 2020 and June 2020. The reinfected groups were then compared to a control group of 5.3 million individuals.
The conclusion: those who are infected with the COVID-19 virus more than two times are three times more likely to require hospitalization, three times more likely to experience respiratory problems, three times more likely to have a blood clot, three times more likely to experience cardiovascular problems, and twice as likely to die for any reason. Not only that but they’re also more likely to experience kidney disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, fatigue, diabetes, neurological disorders, and musculoskeletal disorders. According to Dr. Al-Aly, the risk of complications is the highest during the first 30 days of the initial infection.
It’s important to note, however, that their team did not do subgroup analyses. In other words, it’s unknown whether or not these health problems are more or less of a threat to specific groups of people after being reinfected with the COVID-19 virus. Nevertheless, the study highlights the fact that everyone should be cautious of long COVID after testing positive for the virus, especially if they’ve been infected in the past.
While more studies are needed, the current research has helped solidify what scientists and doctors have been trying to communicate—that COVID is not the same as the common cold or flu; that it’s much more serious. Dr. Russo, an infectious disease expert, added that “just because you’re young and healthy doesn’t mean you can dodge these potential complications.”
For maximum protection, he recommends everyone to stay up to date on all their recommended vaccines. While the vaccine won’t grant you invincibility, it will reduce the chances of you becoming infected. If anything, it’s especially important now as many respiratory illnesses have continued to spike.
In addition to vaccinations, it’s highly recommended that you wash your hands with soap often. Events with people should be held in well-ventilated spaces or ideally, outdoors, and individuals should test themselves for COVID if they develop any flu-like symptoms. Not only that but wearing a well-fitting mask can also lower your risk and the risk of those around you.