Long Island is home to the highest weekly COVID-19 reinfection rate in New York City, according to the latest data from the state health department.
Statistics show that 2,019 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties with a previous COVID-19 infection tested positive in the week beginning November 21. That’s an infection rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people, surpassing New York’s rate of 8.6.
Long Island infectious disease experts said the statistics don’t fully reflect all reinfections in the region and state — only results reported by medical facilities were included, as opposed to those from home COVID-19 tests. . And, more importantly, experts say, the numbers don’t indicate how sick those reinfected got.
A person is considered to have been reinfected if they test positive again 90 days or more after their first positive test, according to the New York State Department of Health.
What there is to know
- Long Island is home to the highest weekly COVID-19 reinfection rate in New York State.
- Statistics show 2,019 people in Nassau and Suffolk counties that had previously had COVID-19 infection tested positive in the week beginning Nov. 21.
- The infection rate of 10.2 per 100,000 people in Long Island exceeds the rate of 8.6 in New York.
Dr. Bruce Farber, chief of public health and epidemiology for Northwell Health, said Long Island’s reinfection numbers are likely no higher than New York or surrounding areas. He said the numbers could be affected by a large number of nursing homes in the area.
He said it is vital that people understand that being re-infected with COVID-19 a second time should be taken as seriously as a first infection.
“Some data has just come out that suggests the rate of long COVID and complications is just as high with reinfections as it was with the original infection,” Farber said. “So I don’t think people should have a false sense of security that they have COVID once they’re out of the woods, because that’s not necessarily true at all.”
A recent study from Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and the St. Louis Veterans Health Care System found that repeated infections can cause health problems in organ systems and can contribute to diabetes, kidney disease and mental health problems.
Farber pointed out that immunity to previous infections and vaccination wanes over time, setting the stage for reinfection.
“We also know that some people seem to have more reinfections than others and that needs further research to understand why,” he said.
While it’s important to track reinfections, said Dr. David J. Cennimo, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, it’s also critical to analyze the difference between reinfection and illness. severe.
“As part of the continued evolution of the virus, the virus itself may change enough to render antibodies generated by the vaccine or past infection ineffective,” he said. “One way to determine if this is happening is to monitor reinfection rates just as you would measure infection rates after vaccination.”
Reinfections are not unusual, Cennimo said. Before the emergence of COVID-19, there were coronaviruses that caused colds or upper respiratory tract infections every year. Some data showed people would be reinfected every three to five years, he said.
Infections on the rise
Early COVID-19 infections also appear to be increasing in Nassau and Suffolk counties, said Dr. Bruce Polsky, chairman of the department of medicine at NYU Langone Hospital-Long Island.
“Now that we are getting closer to winter, people are gathering and people are moving indoors,” he said. “Uptake of the bivalent vaccine that was released in September has been low everywhere…people are accepting less protection.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 12.1% of the eligible population of people in the United States have received the updated bivalent booster, which is designed to provide protection against both the original strain of the virus that causes COVID-19 and some of the omicron subvariants.
Being boosted won’t prevent all infections and reinfections, but it will protect against serious illness, experts said.
“We need to remind people that a mild infection in a vaccinated person who otherwise would likely have become seriously ill from COVID-19 is vaccine success, not vaccine failure,” Cennimo said.
watch the head
Infectious disease experts are generally reluctant to speculate on the future of COVID-19, which has charted an unpredictable course since it emerged three years ago.
But Polsky said it was safe to assume there would be plenty of infections and reinfections this winter.
“What we don’t know and what matters most to us is whether this will lead to serious illness leading to hospitalization and potentially poor outcomes such as death,” he said.
Farber said tracking hospitalizations is key to monitoring future outbreaks of COVID-19. He said there was reason to be hopeful for this winter, but warned of another virus which could cause even more illness and possible death.
“We are already almost a week away from Thanksgiving and I am happy to know that although COVID is still out in large numbers, hospitalization rates have not increased,” he said, adding that current strains of the virus in circulation appear to be less virulent.
“That’s the good news,” Farber said. “The bad news is that flu rates are very high and people are not vaccinated. We could be looking at 60,000 flu deaths in this country this year if these trends continue and less than 100,000 COVID deaths. No one would have guessed a year ago that flu-related deaths might fall within the approximate range of COVID-related deaths. And that’s something we have to be very concerned about. People should get the flu shot. It is a fatal disease. »
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