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Omicron variant can cause infection in those who've recovered from prior COVID-19 infection

A report released June 15, 2022 by the state Department of Health reported reinfection rates since September 1, 2021 in Washington state. According to the report: The Omicron variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Early research also shows that Omicron can cause infection in those who have already recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection. The current COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated are likely to occur.

The definition for a person with a COVID-19 reinfection is an individual with two positive COVID-19 test results (molecular or antigen) reported to DOH, where the tests were performed at least 90 days apart. In addition, if genetic sequencing of respiratory samples from a patient’s initial infection and most recent infection identifies different variants, they are considered a confirmed reinfection regardless of time between positive tests.

Key Findings:

• A total of 51,640 people had a reported reinfection.

• Of those with reported reinfection, 1,249 (2.4%) people were hospitalized.

• Of those with reported reinfection, 131 (0.3%) people died.

Reinfections and associated hospitalizations and deaths

Total people with a reinfection: 51,640*

Number of hospitalizations in people with a reinfection: 1,249*

Percent reinfected who were hospitalized: 2.4%

Number of deaths in people with a reinfection:  131**

Percent reinfected who died:  0.3%****

*During September 1, 2021 - June 5, 2022

**During September 1, 2021 - May 17, 2022

****Percent of 48,413 reinfections from September 1, 2021 - May 17, 2022

• If a person is reinfected with the virus, a prior infection does not provide complete protection against hospitalization or death.

The number of people with a COVID-19 reinfection rapidly increased starting in mid- December 2021, with a decrease in cases starting in mid-January 2022. The increase was likely due to:

– An increase in the number of people who experienced a primary infection and could now be reinfected.

– The rise and spread of the Omicron variant. The Omicron variant spreads more easily than the original virus that causes COVID-19 and the Delta variant. Early research also shows that Omicron can cause infection in those who have already recovered from a prior COVID-19 infection. The current COVID-19 vaccines protect against severe illness, hospitalizations, and deaths due to infection with the Omicron variant. However, breakthrough infections in people who are vaccinated are likely to occur.

– Waning immunity over time.


The complete report can be viewed online. It includes reinfections by age and describes the limitations of the data. 

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