Many people have found a second bout of COVID-19 is not guaranteed to be less severe than the first and infectious diseases expert Associate Professor Chris Blyth is warning people to keep up efforts to avoid infection.
Professor Blyth, from The University of Western Australia’s Medical School and Director of the Wesfarmers Centre for Vaccines and Infectious Disease at Telethon Kids Institute, said more than half of all Australians had had COVID but warned against complacency as there was no guarantee subsequent infections would produce mild symptoms.
“Traditionally, there has been evidence that second and third infections are milder than the original infections but there has also been some data released that has questioned that,” Professor Blyth said.
“The important thing that I would say is COVID is unpredictable and there are new variants we need to be aware of.”
He said there were a number of strategies for protecting yourself and others from infection including keeping up to date with recommended vaccinations and boosters and following good hygiene measures.
“Stay home if you’re sick – whether it’s COVID or other respiratory viruses,” he said.
“Most of us will be exposed to COVID at some point but there are also a lot of other respiratory viruses including flu around. The simple strategy of actually staying away from other people if you are unwell is still very relevant.
“People need to be aware of the situations when transmission most likely occurs and modify their behaviour.”
Professor Blyth said the most common transmission environment was indoor, crowded and poorly ventilated, where people weren’t wearing masks and it was best to avoid those areas but if you couldn’t then you should wear a mask.
“COVID is going to continue to evolve and to spread and we should be taking as many precautions as we can in this environment to try and limit transmission not only to protect ourselves and our health system, but also because there are vulnerable people that we really should do our very best to try to protect,” he said.
Professor Blyth also said it was important for older people and those who had underlying health problems to speak to their doctor about anti-viral medication before they became sick and less mobile.
Professor Blyth said vaccination rates among teenagers were encouraging.
“If you’re looking at the 12-to-15-year age group, well over 80 per cent of them have been doubled vaccinated so most parents have listened to the messaging about the importance of vaccination in this age group,” he said.