RALEIGH, NC (WNCN) — Nearly 100,000 North Carolinians may have had COVID-19 at least twice, new data from the Department of Health and Human Services shows.
And COVID reinfections account for a growing proportion of the total each month, up to one in nine cases reported so far in June, according to a CBS17.com analysis of detailed daily counts that NCDHHS began releasing this week.
dr David Wohl, an infectious disease specialist at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, summed it up in four words.
“We’ll all get infected again,” he said.
A case is considered reinfection if a person tests positive at least 90 days after an initial positive test.
NCDHHS spokeswoman Summer Tonizzo said the detailed reinfection data was released this week “to make this information more readily available and to examine trends in reinfections over time.”
Though rare in the first 1 1/2 years of the pandemic, reinfections accounted for nearly 11 percent of all cases reported in June.
That rate hovered around eight percent from January to April before rising to nine percent in May.
NCDHHS counts a total of 99,432 new infections – almost 85,000 of them since January 1st. They spiked at the same time new cases emerged during the worst of the omicron surge in mid-January.
And those are just the ones the health authorities know about.
“I suspect that a lot of the people who aren’t reinfections are also reinfections,” Wohl said.
Just as the number of new infections is likely far too low, there are certainly more reinfections that are either mild enough to go undetected or found with a home test that goes unreported to public health departments.
“Over time, we know that almost everyone who is diagnosed will be reinfection,” Wohl said. “That’s likely to happen at the pace we’re going, especially lately. So I think that’s a very imperfect number. It just tells us there are a lot of people getting infected again.”
The rise in reinfections coincides with the emergence of the Omicron variant and its subvariants – some of which may elude the level of immunity you already have.
The BA.5 subvariant made up 11 percent of samples sequenced in the lab in the state last week — that rate was just 3 percent two weeks earlier — while another subvariant showed a similar increase. BA.4 made up 4 percent of samples last week after making up 1 percent of samples two weeks earlier.
“What we want is that the variants that we see now protect us from subsequent variants that might show up,” Wohl said. “And unfortunately, with omicron, with BA.1 and BA.2, people can still get infected with the latest subvariants.”
The good news, Wohl says, is that people who contract — and contract again — COVID don’t appear to get seriously ill. He pointed to the relatively small number of patients in intensive care with the virus.
NCDHHS counted 90 of them statewide as of June 11, and 12 percent of hospitalized patients are in intensive care units — a rate near a pandemic low.
“The durability of (protection from vaccination) is somewhat questionable, as is the durability of the protection you get from natural infection,” Wohl said. “And we know it wears off over time, but protection against serious disease is burned into our cells. That’s different than antibodies and that really seems to stick and that’s very important.”
CBS 17 Joedy McCreary has been tracking COVID-19 numbers since March 2020, compiling data from federal, state and local sources to provide a clear snapshot of what the coronavirus situation is now and what it could be in the future.
https://www.cbs17.com/news/north-carolina-news/are-you-ready-to-catch-covid-again-1-in-9-cases-in-june-is-a-reinfection/ Are you ready to catch COVID again? 1 in 9 cases in June is reinfection