Can COVID-19 affect the immune system?

The COVID-19 pandemic is prompting medical experts to re-examine the virus’s possible impacts on the immune system. Preliminary research points to measurable changes in the immune system in some cases, including an increase or decrease in certain types of immune cells. These changes may last for up to a year, leading to a heightened risk of other infections such as RSV and influenza.

Epidemiological research has found that people may be more likely to have more doctor appointments and abnormal blood test results in the year following a bout of COVID. However, Virologist Angela Rasmussen clarifies that the premise that COVID leads to widespread immunosuppression is not correct and that the changes in immune cells are transient. Other experts believe that the surge in hospital admissions may be explained by the fact that toddlers were shielded from RSV during the pandemic. Vaccination is seen as the single most important action people can take to reduce their own risk and the risk to others, and further research is needed to understand the full impact of COVID-19 on susceptibility to other infections.


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