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Covid-19 re-infection rare, but can occur: UAE doctors


Dubai - Dr Rajesh Kumar Gupta, specialist internal medicine at Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah, said however the numbers are negligible compared to first-time infection cases.

By Saman Haziq

Published: Fri 19 Mar 2021, 5:19 PM

Cases of Covid reinfection are not common, but do take place, doctors opine.

Dr Rajesh Kumar Gupta, specialist internal medicine at Burjeel Specialty Hospital, Sharjah, said however the numbers are negligible compared to first-time infection cases. “Of the 100 patients we see at the hospital, around 10 are re-infection cases or slightly less. Mostly, the re-infection could also be caused by the mutated variant of the Covid-19 strain.”

He said symptoms in reinfection cases vary from mild to moderate, and can be tackled with isolation and antibiotics. However some patients may require hospitalization.

According to him, though people infected by Covid-19 develop antibodies, the protection lasts for only about three months or maximum six months. “The antibodies in an infected person are likely to reduce after three months. So, people should strictly follow safety precautions including wearing of masks, social distancing, sanitising hands regularly. They should avoid chances of exposure to the virus.”

Dr Shebeen Hamza, consultant anaesthetist/intensivist at Sheikh Khalifa General Hospital in Umm Al Quwain, said it is far more difficult to ascertain if these are actually episodes of reinfection or reactivation from a previous episode.

Although it has been hard to sequence the genomic structure of the virus from the same patient during the two episodes, some sequencing has been done in Hong Kong which showed two different sequences, he said. However, an Oxford research has shown that most of these reinfections are actually reactivations. A study closer to home, done in Qatar, showed only 54 out of a total 133,266 people (0.04%) had good evidence of reinfection. Of these, only one was hospitalised, and that too with a mild infection. “Confirmed reinfection cases reported worldwide has been under 50 so far… So we do know that reinfections can happen. However, it is very rare for the second infection to be more severe than the primary infection. This can still happen and two deaths have been reported, but in a vast majority, it has been milder. The newer variants, especially the new one from Brazil, has been shown to elude the normal immune response triggered by other variants. This would potentially make reinfections more likely,” he added.

The message to take care could not be stronger. Dr Hamza said: “Get vaccinated at the earliest, use masks, practice physical distancing, sanitise yourself and avoid closed crowded places until we have more information. Currently available vaccines should offer you more protection against chances of infection than naturally occurring immunity.”

Dr Remesan Gopalan, Specialist Internal Medicine at NMC Specialty Hospital, Al Ain, opined that there is still not much data regarding reinfection rates and severity of reinfection of Covid infection. “It has been noted that in UK, most health care professionals affected during the first pandemic in March-April 2020 were not affected during the second wave in October-November 2020.This gives an inference that first infection probably provides immunity at least for up to six months. Still level of immunity offered is uncertain and change in strains may be another cause of reinfection. It’s also noted that most reinfections were of mild nature,” he said.


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