As New Zealand moves further away from the peak of the Omicron outbreak and the vaccine campaign, people's immunity will eventually start to wane. 

New variants and subvariants of Covid-19 continue to emerge and this could see New Zealanders catching Covid-19 more than once.

Dave Richardson tested positive for the virus last week - it’s the second time he’s been infected with Covid-19 in just one month.

“Don't think just because you've had it once you can't get it again. You definitely can and I think as well, it's about keeping on top of your own risk,” Richardson said. 

Dave, who works as an analyst in Wellington, said “I started feeling sick and I thought this feels exactly like last time”.

“The first time around, it was headaches, muscle aches and exhaustion. I didn't really get a cough the first time. This time the cough has been one of my worst symptoms.”

“I've [also] lost my sense of smell this time, which I didn't the first time,” the 35-year-old said.

Dave said he thought catching Covid-19 a second time would be milder than the first time. 

“I was really unwell for probably 48 hours the first time, but this time it was more like three days instead of two.”

With New Zealand now at the orange light setting and the borders reopened to visa waiver countries, the risk is even higher of catching Covid-19. 

But there are still concerns for vulnerable people that the public is letting their guard down a little too soon.

'There will be a risk of reinfection'

Cellular immunologist, Dr Anna Brooks, from the University of Auckland, said the risk of being reinfected with the same variant is considered to be very rare but not impossible. 

The difficult situation we face in New Zealand is the new variants and subvariants that are appearing in the community, Brooks said.

“There are indications that some of the new variants don't give you any protection against any further ones that come along. 

“Even with our high vaccination rates and widespread Omicron outbreak, as long as we have more than one variant circulating, there will be a risk of reinfection,” Brooks said.

Second or third exposure to Covid-19 could lead to long Covid

Brooks is running a study on long Covid and said she is seeing a huge influx of people that have not fully recovered.

“Surviving one infection unscathed does not mean you will be out of the woods with getting long Covid. It might be a second or third exposure that triggers this illness.”

“Limiting exposure to the virus, even if previously infected and/or fully vaccinated, is the best way to avoid the risk of developing long-term health complications," she said.

Immunity from our vaccinations or previous infection will also wane, leaving many people at risk of infection, she said.

“Many also don’t seem to realise that there are no treatments to reverse the debilitating symptoms experienced from long Covid. These are shortness of breath, brain fog and cognitive impairment, and extreme fatigue to name a few.”

Restrictions may be easing but Brooks said the community aspect of our collective efforts against this virus needs to remain. 

“We used to be a team of five million and it's not that way anymore, we have these inequities and the regard for the vulnerable and the disabled communities is gone.

“We all want to move forward, let's all move forward together as safely as possible.”

Brooks encouraged people to continue wearing masks and to keep indoor spaces well ventilated as ways to protect yourself and those around you from Covid-19. 

Top Image: A sick person in bed. (File photo) Photo: iStock

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