Experts closely watch reinfection trends as BA.5 spreads

The omicron subvariant BA.5's highly transmissible nature and ability to evade immunity is spurring health experts to revisit earlier assumptions about the typical time span between COVID-19 infections, The Wall Street Journal reported July 19.

Under the CDC's definition, the window for a new COVID-19 infection is 90 days, meaning any returning COVID-19 symptoms or positive tests within that time period are considered the same infection, according to the Journal.

As BA.5 spreads globally, epidemiologists and infectious disease experts are closely monitoring whether reinfections are happening more often and closer in time. 

"This new variant's superpower is reinfection," Peter Chin-Hong, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco, told the Journal, adding that the 90-day standard is "completely out the window."

Early data from Helix, a lab that helps the CDC with viral surveillance, suggests COVID-19 reinfections are becoming more common in the U.S., but they are not happening more quickly. Helix found that the average time between infections has actually increased from 230 days in April to 270 days in July, though more research and data collection is needed to fully understand the trend as the BA.5 surge continues. 


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