As the Covid-19 pandemic continues to evolve, scientists are warning that the virus is causing more severe infections and knocking people out for weeks. Previously, it was believed that each subsequent bout of illness would be milder, but recent experiences have challenged this assumption. Many individuals are reporting a week of coughing, headaches, fever, and lingering fatigue. It is essential to note that Covid-19 has always presented a wide range of symptoms, with some lucky individuals experiencing only mild symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, experts specializing in the immune system are now cautioning that the virus is causing more severe bouts of disease and may be worse than before.
The battle between the virus and our body's defenses determines how we fare after exposure to Covid-19. The early stages of infection are crucial in determining the severity of the illness. However, waning immunity and the virus's evolution are tipping the scales in favor of the virus. Antibodies, which stick to the surface of the virus and prevent it from infecting our cells, play a crucial role in fighting the virus. When antibody levels are high, the virus can be quickly eliminated, resulting in a short and mild infection. However, antibody levels are currently relatively low due to the time elapsed since vaccination or infection.
Experts warn that the limited availability of booster shots this year, compared to the widespread vaccination efforts in the past, may contribute to more people experiencing severe illness. Even young and fit individuals are reporting nasty bouts of Covid-19, sometimes leading to long Covid. While the official government decision in the UK is to prioritize vaccination for those at risk of severe illness or hospitalization, this leaves a significant portion of the population susceptible to the virus.
Furthermore, the virus's evolving nature poses additional challenges. As the virus changes its appearance, antibodies become less effective in recognizing and neutralizing it. This lack of immunity to new variants, such as the Omicron variant, may contribute to individuals feeling rougher with Covid-19 than they have before. However, it is important to note that this does not necessarily mean an increased likelihood of critical illness or hospitalization. The T-cells, another part of our immune system, kick in once the infection is underway and are less affected by mutating viruses.
While some may hope that Covid-19 will eventually become a mild and innocuous infection, similar to the common cold, experts stress that we are not there yet. However, repeated infections may help build natural immunity over time. In the meantime, it is likely that many of us will have to endure a challenging winter with the virus.