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Multiple COVID-19 infections can devastate the immune system–especially for people within the Black community.
During an interview with NBC News Oct. 12, Dr. Geoffrey Mount Varner, an emergency medical physician and founder of the Washington D.C.-based Lifeline Medical Consulting, urged for people in the Black community previously infected with the virus to mask up as a new wave of COVID-19 cases climb across the United States.
Varner stated there are significant health risks linked to reinfection for Black folks.
“Some of the data clearly showed that Covid impacted Blacks disproportionately, so it only makes sense that it’s going to be the same with multiple infections because there are so many people who had it,” the Harvard graduate explained.
A 2022 report by KFF found that Black people had higher rates of COVID-19 infection and death associated with the virus between 2020 and 2022. Varner said that grim data was connected to high rates of “comorbidities such as diabetes, heart disease, and obesity” prevalent within the community. Many did not have access to quality health care or insurance.
“With multiple infections, the data is showing that each infection is like a health insult that will manifest itself more in the hardest-hit community, which is Black people,” he continued.
“So, you have a sick person getting this virus more than once and the outcome is going to be different, more harmful, than white counterparts,” Varner stated.
Individuals who have been reinfected with the virus are at risk of developing Long COVID — a condition where COVID symptoms linger after acute infection.
A study supported by the Researching COVID to Enhance Recovery in April found that Black and Hispanic adults were more likely to develop Long COVID symptoms like chest pain, headaches, brain fog and respiratory issues after initial infection.
“The impact of Long COVID lingers,” Varner said. “People said it would be like the flu. Well, you get the flu, and you get over it, hopefully, and you move on. That’s not what doctors are telling us about what they are seeing with Covid. You get it multiple times and it’s doing something to the body that the flu hasn’t.”
Dr. Jayne Morgan, executive director of the Covid task force at Piedmont Healthcare, warned that for some community members, COVID-19 reinfection could increase the risk of “disability.”
“We’re talking about your inability to take care of your family because you have these Covid-related health challenges,” Morgan told NBC News.
According to the American Medical Association, COVID-19 reinfection can lead to chronic health issues like diabetes, organ failure and kidney disease.
How do we protect ourselves against COVID-19 reinfection?
As we enter into the harsh winter months, Varner says it is imperative for vulnerable community members to mask up, social distance and wash their hands thoroughly. Getting a good night’s rest, increasing physical activity and taking vitamins will also help to fight against reinfection.
“Vitamins like C and D, as well as zinc, have been shown to enhance immunity,” the medical expert said.
“People should consider consulting with a healthcare professional to determine their specific needs and the appropriate supplements for them.”
Morgan stressed the importance of getting vaccinated as we fight to protect our immune systems this COVID, cold and flu season. The Atlanta-based health officials said vaccination is critical to achieving herd immunity, which occurs when a population becomes immune against a virus through vaccination.
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