TRUST INDEX: COVID-19 reinfection happening sooner in many cases with new subvariants, doctor says

BA.5 subvariant is more infectious than previous strains

SAN ANTONIO – Each COVID-19 variant and subvariant brings changes to our daily lives.

The primary strain right now is BA.5, an Omicron subvariant present in 88% of current cases -- the most infectious strain yet.

Viewers have sent in questions asking how soon you can be reinfected after getting COVID-19, so we ran them through the KSAT Trust Index.

BA.5 tends to cause less serious disease but is more contagious.

“Things have changed a bit, as all things COVID seem to do. Previously, with the initial strain, after you were infected, we saw that people had natural immunity that would last for at least three months and sometimes much longer,” said Dr. Jason Bowling, associate professor and infectious disease specialist at the Long School of Medicine at UT Health San Antonio and chief epidemiologist at University Health.

Bowling has closely watched the differences in reinfection with each strain.

“Now we’re seeing people get infected, and then, really about four weeks later, they’re infected with another COVID infection, believably from a similar strain that’s related to the initial Omicron,” Bowling said.

Reinfection is different than rebound infections, which happen in rare cases when people take the medication Paxlovid.

The medication is given after diagnosis and is meant to dull infection in high-risk patients. Recently, doctors gave it to President Joe Biden and Dr. Anthony Fauci after they tested positive for COVID-19.

“Paxlovid drops your viral load and suppresses your symptoms. But when you stop taking it, what we’ve seen in a small percentage of people is their viral load can go back up again, and they can have symptoms again,” Bowling said.

While rebound infections can occur, the severity of the illness stays low.

“So it’s the same virus. It’s not a new infection that’s a rebound of that virus,” Bowling explained.

Bowling said vaccines can be key when it comes to reinfection.

“People with the vaccine tend to have a more stronger response and a longer-lasting response. They can still get infected, but they’re a little bit better protected from more severe disease,” Bowling said.

He said people with the best protection against COVID-19 have had a natural infection and are vaccinated.

So as to whether these current strains can cause faster reinfection, that’s true on the KSAT Trust Index.

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About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

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