Amid an upswing in new COVID cases thanks to a more-contagious omicron variant, many patients want to know whether their positive tests are from the same infection or a new one, something that Chicago’s top doctor recently addressed.
Dr. Allison Arwady, commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health, says that concerns over “rebound” COVID cases need to be taken seriously, but that the occurrence of getting COVID twice in short succession is relatively low.
“Most people are not getting reinfected again. Most people who are getting reinfected who were months out (from their previous case) in most cases,” she said.
Arwady warned that patients who test positive via a PCR test could simply be showing that they had recently been infected with the virus, but that at-home tests could be a better indicator of a “rebound” case of the virus.
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Regardless, officials recommend that patients observe the same CDC guidelines on quarantine even in cases of “rebound COVID.”
Concerns have recently grown about contracting COVID twice in short succession, especially after the news that President Joe Biden had tested positive again for the virus late last week after several days of negative tests.
The president, who was prescribed the Pfizer antiviral Paxlovid, said he was symptom-free following the new positive test, but that he would resume isolation as a precaution.
Dr. Kevin O’Connor, Biden’s physician in the White House, said that there have been limited reports of rebound cases in patients who had taken the drug, which has shown a nearly 90% success rate in helping at-risk patients to avoid hospitalizations due to their illness.
Amid those concerns, Arwady says it’s still rare to see a patient get infected back-to-back with different variants right now, but that the reinfection rate from the original strains of omicron, which circulated over the winter, and the newer strains is significantly higher.
“Yes, especially with BA.4 and BA.5, we are seeing more examples of another infection, even people who had an original version of omicron,” she said.
Arwady says that patients, including those who took Paxlovid, who test positive again for COVID shortly after making it through their quarantine period should once again go back into quarantine for five days, and should monitor their symptoms.
She also says that the likelihood of serious illness with the BA.4 and BA.5 subvariants remains low, especially if the patient is up-to-date on vaccinations.
“You’re very unlikely to get seriously if you’ve recently had an infection, assuming you’re up-to-date with all of your vaccines,” she said.
(With home tests) It would be unlikely that you would still be testing positive in a way that you would still be contagious.
Yes, especially with BA.4 and BA.5, we are seeing more examples of another infection, even people who had an original version of omicron.
She says it’s rare to see someone get infected back-to-back with different variants right now, but that the reinfection rate from the original strains of omicron and the newer strains is significantly higher.
“What we’ve seen with omicron is this is the most contagious version yet.
You’re very unlikely to get seriously if you’ve recently had an infection, assuming you’re up-to-date with all of your vaccines, so what I can say is if it’s a PCR test, disregard it. If it’s a home test, be careful.”