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Experts now warn against long COVID which shows up after 6-12 months after first infection

‘The current data from India and other countries indicate that re-infections are rare. However, in some cases, it may occur any time beyond three months after recovery from COVID-19,’ says N.K. Arora

“COVID-19 is a recent disease and at times it displays symptoms which no other viral infection does. While we are developing understanding about the short and long-term impact on the body we now know that one may develop new symptoms six months to one year after recovering from COVID. The term given to this is long COVID,” said N.K. Arora, head, Operations Research Group which is part of the National Task force set up by Indian Council of Medical Research in response to COVID-19, speaking exclusively to The Hindu.

Also read: Single COVID-19 vaccine dose boosts protection in previously infected: study

He added that studies have shown that after a COVID-19 infection, antibodies may persist for three to nine months, which prevent re-infections.

“The current data from India and other countries indicate that re-infections are rare. However, in some cases, it may occur any time beyond three months after recovery from COVID-19. Vaccines provide protection against severe disease for a longer duration,’’ he said.

Also read: Coronavirus | Vaccines aimed at curbing severe COVID-19: experts

Available data and research explain that not all but some people may experience long-term effects of COVID-19, said Mubasheer Ali, senior internal medicine consultant, Apollo TeleHealth. He noted that these long-term effects may include fatigue, respiratory symptoms, and neurological symptoms.

“This is long COVID and it refers to when people continue to experience symptoms of COVID-19 and do not fully recover for several weeks or months after the start of their symptoms. Although it is still unclear how many people have experienced long COVID, data from some COVID Symptom Study suggest that one in 10 people with the illness experience symptoms for three weeks or longer,” he said.

‘B.1.617 extremely infectious’

The virus strain B.1.617 was extremely infectious and virulent, said Sushant Chhabra, HOD, Emergency Medicine, Manipal Hospital, Delhi. He noted that currently some infected with this strain even after recovery were showing long-term injuries to the lungs which took a good four-five months for recovery.

“There are many cases which we have observed in the last few days wherein patients have COVID-19 like symptoms but their RT-PCR tests are showing negative results. Irrespective, we are treating them as COVID-19 patients,” said the doctor.

He added that they were seeing patients who recovered from COVID-19 in the first wave during October or November and had got re-infected in the second wave.

“The possibility of re-infection is always there in COVID-19 because their immunity is not a life-long thing. It generally stays for three-four months which is why patients end up getting re-infected,” he added.

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