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B.C. doctors seeing COVID-19 reinfection in patients who recently had Omicron

When patients who had an Omicron infection in December and January visit the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre with cold and flu symptoms now, they’re often shocked to learn it’s possible they may have contracted COVID-19 a second time.

This comes as the rolling average of confirmed cases in B.C. is trending upward, and as health officials warn of an incoming sixth wave driven by a new variant of concern.

“We do believe the majority of new infections now are the BA.2 sub variant, the stealth variant, the more contagious variant. And that increases the likelihood of these repeat infections,” said centre director Dr. Brian Conway.

Family physician Dr. Anna Wolak says patients who believed their previous bout of Omicron protected them from future infections are surprised they can get the sub-variant only months later.

“Even if you had original Omicron in December, there is still the possibility there was enough variation in BA.2 to get you reinfected. And we are seeing that playing out around the world,” said Wolak.

Another reason for the rapid reinfections? Many people didn’t bother getting their booster shot after they recovered from COVID. Of those 12 and over who are eligible for a booster in B.C., 57.6 have received a third dose, according to the health ministry.

“The absence of a third shot in about half of the people is what’s fuelling the number of cases and the recurrence of cases. It can happen as soon as a few weeks after a particular individual had been infected and has recovered,” said Conway.

But Wolak says most people who had Omicron figure they are immune, regardless of whether they had the booster.

“There are a lot of people walking around with symptoms they are attributing to hay fever or allergies or just they think they have a cold. They don’t realize they are walking around with COVID,” she said.

Both doctors say public health needs to make sure British Columbians know reinfection is possible.

“COVID is not a one and done illness. It’s not like I got chicken pox as a kid, and I’m not going to get chicken pox again,” said Wolak.

Conway fears many people will end up learning this the hard way.

“I think the more we see of people getting it more than once, and then being reminded in a very stark way that COVID is still around -- hopefully word will get out,” he said. Top Stories

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