Could this be the one upside of having Covid?
April 14, 2022 8:13 PM   Subscribe

For how long after having Covid might I be immune to getting it again? Mr. Blah and I are slowly shuffling our way through it, but I was thinking once we're done we might actually do something nutty like eat at a restaurant. Help me understand if our antibodies will mean anything at all, given variants? FWIW, I'm vaxxed + boost, he's vaxxed + 2 boosts (though he got his 2nd boost literally hours before testing positive, alas).
posted by BlahLaLa to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Sorry, but my daughter, vaxxed and boosted once (she's 32) got Covid in January and was sick as hell, though she remained at home. The entire family got infected. It took 12 days to test negative. In April she tested positive again. This time it was probably ba2, since we're in the Northeast, where it's ubiquitous. Fortunately she recovered more quickly, after 6 days, and had only a cough.

She has 3 kids. They also got sick in January, but with isolating and masking inside her home in April they never tested positive. She tested them daily, thanks to Biden's rule that insurers must give each insured person 8 free tests per month. The didn't miss a day of school.

We're hoping she'll contrive to avoid another infection. Having kids enlarges the potential pool of infection, and currently there are no mask mandates in the school district. (Her kids wore masks after she tested positive). It really seems more like roulette than science.
posted by citygirl at 8:57 PM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: It seriously depends on what variant we run into next. Delta was a significant variant from OG COVID, and Omicron was a significant variant from Delta. And now BA.2 is a significant subvariant from Omicron. There's just no way we'd know.
posted by kschang at 9:04 PM on April 14, 2022 [5 favorites]

Best answer: We've created a near perfect petri dish of a society that is really good for creating variants. If you are eating in a nice place in New Zealand, you should be fine. In a low vax city in the USA, you are taking a chance that's hard to quantify.
posted by Sophont at 10:08 PM on April 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Most likely, you were infected with BA.2, in which case you are very, very unlikely to be reinfected during this wave. I'd certainly feel comfortable eating in a restaurant if I were you for about two months in your situation (and I have not done so since March 2020, my risk tolerance is very low). Of course, if a new variant gets traction before that, you'd need to reevaluate. I think your main risk would be a new variant becomes prominent quite quickly before systems pick up on it. That's possible, but I think not that likely. It's much more likely that a new variant comes from elsewhere and is discovered before it gets to you.

It is also possible that you were infected with BA.1, since it is still around, though it is not that likely at this point, as it is responsible for only a small proportion of cases. In that case, you would be a little less protected, but BA.2 infection soon after BA.1 infection is still rare, even if it is possible. The study linked here identified only three cases of BA.1 to BA.2 reinfection in people with two vaccine doses, out of many, many thousands of cases.

If you had a PCR test, it may theoretically be possible to distinguish between BA.1 and BA.2, depending on the brand of test used, as BA.2 is S-gene positive and BA.1 is not (it has SGTF).

Overall, since the risk if you had BA.2 is very low and the risk if you had BA.1 (which isn't very likely) is quite low, I think it is quite reasonable to lower your guard somewhat for a couple months, unless we have a new variant wave.
posted by ssg at 10:18 PM on April 14, 2022 [7 favorites]

Best answer: It means something, but not a ton. Broadly speaking, the immunity you get from an infection is likely to be better against future variants than the vaccine, although the vaccine seems to be longer lasting. The reason vaccine was basically designed pre-delta variant, and each new strain takes a step further away from that--but is within a step of the last variant. (This is simplified and describes a tendency rather than a certainty, but will be generally true.)

I work with antiviral researchers and as we came out of this last wave there was more than a little gallows humor about the ones who had gotten it being in good shape for the next wave, compared to the rest of us.

I'd personally eat in a restaurant while we're between waves with just the vax-immunity, but nothing's certain and you could have rotten luck and even with your slightly increased defenses.
posted by mark k at 12:52 AM on April 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

Best answer: >and the risk if you had BA.1 (which isn't very likely)

BA.2 only overtook BA.1 in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago, so the odds might range from 50-50 to 75-25 that you caught BA.2 and not BA.1 .
posted by sebastienbailard at 1:22 AM on April 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I think, for all the many unknowns, you could think of the question as being like "I've just had a cold, how likely am I to be immune to not immediately catching another?" For colds, as I understand it, the answer is "a little" - because the one you are just recovering from should give you some temporary immunity from catching another cold from that particular virus. So - as with a cold - there is no reason for you to confidently go into an unventilated room of coughing people just because you've just had one. Instead, you want to make sure that you have allowed your system to fully recover from your previous illness - and to make sure your immune system is as boosted as possible (for example by ensuring you have good levels of vitamin D).

Covid - of any variety- has a higher risk profile than colds do - so I think a reasonable effort to avoid re-exposure is well worthwhile: not a good idea to do anything foolhardy. None of us can be expected to put our lives on hold indefinitely however - so I'd say: go and have that restaurant meal, but maybe choose somewhere with good ventilation and not too many other people.
posted by rongorongo at 2:20 AM on April 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I've seen anecdata about reinfection even post-booster in 2022. I know you want to find a silver lining but if you're otherwise risk-averse I'd just celebrate that you made it through OK and continue being cautious.
posted by needs more cowbell at 3:53 AM on April 15, 2022 [4 favorites]

I had breakthrough covid earlier this year - I was triple-vaxxed - and finally, a week after recovery, tested negative on Jan 27. My health care system considers me "covid-recovered" and doesn't require that I get covid-tested before any procedures until after April 17.

That... is basically the only benefit I have noticed. Came in very handy for an upper endoscopy I needed last month. I can still get covid, it's just much less likely right now. I worry a little less about catching it in the wild from other people in my area, who have mostly stopped masking indoors in shops. I and my family still mask when we go out, because we're super cautious and because having had it once, I am super sure I don't want it again.
posted by invincible summer at 7:31 AM on April 15, 2022

As a practical matter, a lot depends on the level of disease in the local area at the time. If there are, say 10 new cases a day per 100,000 population that's a lot different from 500/day per 100,000.

The meaning of your vaccinations and prior infections is that it is very likely that you will develop serious disease, meaning serious enough to be put in the hospital. I have not seen much on the relative discomforts of "non-serious" disease but it seems to run the gamut from barely noticeable to pretty miserable.
posted by SemiSalt at 7:45 AM on April 15, 2022

Not only do you only get a brief window of resistance, you will also have been quite sick for several weeks, making you more vulnerable to flu, colds, gastroviruses, and food poisoning.

I'd stick to the patio, at best.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:11 AM on April 15, 2022

Best answer: BA.2 only overtook BA.1 in Los Angeles a couple weeks ago, so the odds might range from 50-50 to 75-25 that you caught BA.2 and not BA.1

Getting down in the weeds here, but for the week of April 3-9 in California (plus Nevada, Hawaii, Arizona), BA.2 was 88% of infections. Likely over 90% by the time the Blahs got infected.
posted by ssg at 8:14 AM on April 15, 2022 [2 favorites]

Best answer: The meaning of your vaccinations and prior infections is that it is very likely that you will develop serious disease, meaning serious enough to be put in the hospital.

I'm pretty sure this is a typo; your vaccinations and prior infections make it very UNLIKELY you will develop serious hospitalization-level disease.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:10 AM on April 15, 2022

(Also for what it's worth, I am absolutely planning to go to restaurants in my brief post-infection window. Rates are low where I live and I almost certainly caught the strain that is still dominant; there may never again be a perfect time, and indeed may not be a better time for it for, literally, years, so we're goin for it.)
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 9:13 AM on April 15, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you for the answers. The best news of the day is that Mr. Blah and I are both feeling significantly better, so that's nice. For us, Covid has been like a really massive cold/flu. We felt like crap, but never felt like we were in danger.
posted by BlahLaLa at 9:39 AM on April 15, 2022 [8 favorites]

Just wanted to add here that I’ve read a few articles that link to studies that suggest you likely have 60-days when it would be very rare to be reinfected (with one of the Omicron variants). I guess it all depends on the person. It could be up to 3 or 6 months of heightened immunity or… not. I’ve see. Most folks fall between at least 60-90 days.

I had it the first week of Feb but now our numbers are going up (Northeast), so I’m going back to being wary. I gave myself some room to eat in restaurants but I think as this BA2 wave does it’s thing I’ll be back on patios and always masked. I gave myself the chance to relax a bit these last 4-6 weeks bc I figure this could be my chance for a while and it was good for my anxiety.
posted by jdl at 5:56 PM on April 16, 2022 [2 favorites]

This new pre-print study might be relevant as additional re-assurance. Out of nearly 50,000 BA.2 infections in Belgium, they managed to find only five people who were infected with BA.1 and then BA.2 within a nine week period.
posted by ssg at 3:23 PM on April 18, 2022

Realised I made an error in my post above it should be "Out of nearly 50,000 BA.1 and BA.2 infections in Belgium".
posted by ssg at 6:45 PM on April 18, 2022

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