COVID-19 Roundup: Immunity Can Last This Long for Those Infected; Hospitalizations Among Children; and More

Researchers: COVID-19 Can Provide Immunity From Reinfection for At Least 5 Months

Scientists with Public Health England have found that naturally acquired immunity in people infected with COVID-19 provides 83 percent protection against reinfection, compared to people who have not had the coronavirus. Moreover, this protection appears to last at least for 5 months from first becoming ill.

Researchers, however, emphasize that protection from reinfection is not absolute, and that it is possible for those with antibodies to carry and transmit the disease to others.

“The study will continue to follow participants for 12 months to explore how long any immunity may last, the effectiveness of vaccines, and to what extent people with immunity are able to carry and transmit the virus,” a U.K. press release states.

As part of its SIREN study, PHE says it has been regularly testing tens of thousands of healthcare workers across the United Kingdom since June for new COVID-19 infections. They’ve also been looking for the presence of antibodies, which suggest people have been infected before.

Between June and the end of November, scientists detected 44 potential reinfections (2 ‘probable’ and 42 ‘possible’ reinfections) out of 6,614 participants who had tested positive for antibodies. This represents an 83 percent rate of protection from reinfection. Researchers caution, however that “some of these individuals carry high levels of virus and could continue to transmit the virus to others.”

“We now know that most of those who have had the virus, and developed antibodies, are protected from reinfection, but this is not total and we do not yet know how long protection lasts,” stated Susan Hopkins, a profession and senior medical advisor at Public Health England and the SIREN study lead. “Crucially, we believe people may still be able to pass the virus on.”

Researchers: Rising Rates of Children Hospitalized With COVID-19 in Some States ‘Concerning’

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states that children who get the coronavirus are less likely to have severe symptoms. That position hasn’t changed. But studies are showing that children are increasingly being hospitalized.

The most recent research was published in JAMA Pediatrics this month. Researchers stipulate that pediatric COVID-19 hospitalizations have varied significantly across the U.S. and rates remain low — but those rates more than tripled from May to November.

At the beginning of the study in mid-May of last year, the average cumulative hospitalization rate per 100 000 children was 2.0, increasing to 17.2 by the end of the study in mid-November. During that period, a total of 301,102 Americans were hospitalized with COVID-19, 5,364 of them children.

“Our results present concerning trends in pediatric hospitalizations,” the researchers state. “Adult, and especially geriatric, incidence of COVID-19 continues to dominate the national picture, but pediatric populations may require resources that are not readily available across the country.”

The study is limited by including only states where the breakdown of cumulative hospitalizations by age is available, leaving approximately 56 percent of states out of the analysis, the paper’s authors state.

“Still, the states included in our analyses are geographically representative and include more than 29 million children in the United States,” researchers said. “As conversations around in-person education continue, hospitalization growth may offer reasons for concern.”

Study: Many Mask Wearers Don’t Practice Enough Social Distancing

Wearing a mask properly is the best protection against COVID-19, but public health officials insist that other measures, including social distancing, avoiding large gatherings and frequent hand washing, are also necessary.

A new study indicates that many faithful mask wearers are not following through with these other practices, particularly social distancing. The study, published in JMIR Public Health and Surveillance, was done by a team of researchers at the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine, in partnership with public health officials for the state of Vermont.

The researchers gathered survey data from adults living in northwestern Vermont and test results that showed whether a subset of these adults had contracted COVID-19. The key risk factor driving transmission of the disease: the number of daily contacts participants had with other adults and seniors. Ironically, “those who wore masks had more of these daily contacts, compared with those who didn’t, and a higher proportion contracted the virus as a result,” states an article published by the University of Vermont’s Larner College of Medicine.

“When you wear a mask, you may have a deceptive sense of being protected and have more interactions with other people,” said Eline van den Broek-Altenburg, Ph.D., assistant professor and vice chair for Population Health Science in the Department of Radiology and the study’s principal investigator.

The study also found that those living in apartments were more likely to be infected with the virus, compared with those who lived in single-family homes.

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