COVID-19: People who catch coronavirus for a second time likely to have milder symptoms, survey suggests

·3-min read

People who catch coronavirus for a second time have a lower viral load compared to the first infection, indicating they will have milder symptoms, a survey suggests.

Of 19,470 people surveyed who had previously been infected with coronavirus, 195 reinfections were identified, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which compiled the survey.

Some 48 of those cases had a strong positive COVID-19 test, indicating a high viral load.

Live COVID updates from UK and around the world

"This suggests that the number of reinfections is low overall, and reinfections with a high viral load (which are more likely to cause illness) are even lower," the report said.

The analysis found 99% of strong positive cases recorded in July were compatible with the Delta variant - first identified in India - compared to 92% in June and 46% in May.

It said people testing positive for COVID-19 with a strong positive test, indicating a higher viral load, were more likely to report "classic" symptoms such as a cough, fatigue or headache, rather than just loss of smell or gastrointestinal problems such as abdominal pain, diarrhoea, and nausea or vomiting.

The survey also suggested that one in four young adults who test positive for COVID are no longer following the rules for self-isolating.

Some 75% of respondents aged between 18 and 34 said they fully adhered to the isolation requirements for the entire 10-day period after testing positive for coronavirus.

This was "statistically significantly" lower than the percentage of 35 to 54-year-olds who said they followed the rules (86%), the ONS said.

The figures were based on responses collected from adults in England between 5 and 10 July.

They suggest most people are still following the requirement to self-isolate, although levels have dropped in the last two months.

Some 88% of 18 to 34-year-olds said they were adhering to self-isolation rules when surveyed between 10 and 15 May, compared with 75% in the latest survey.

Adherence among all adults has fallen from 86% in May to 79% in July.

The proportion of people saying self-isolation has affected their wellbeing has risen, however.

Around four in 10 (42%) of those who tested positive reported that isolating had had a negative effect on their mental health, up from 37% in May.

And 31% reported having lost income due to self-isolation, up from 27%.

"Full adherence to self-isolation requirements after testing positive for COVID-19 remains high, though we have seen a drop from May to July," said Tim Gibbs, head of the ONS public service analysis team.

"Self-isolation can have a negative impact on wellbeing and finances - nearly one third of people reported they lost income as a result of adherence and four in 10 said self-isolation had a negative impact on their wellbeing and mental health.

"With restrictions having relaxed further, it is important we continue to monitor the behaviour of those required to self-isolate."

The figures should be treated with care, the ONS added, as the survey was based on a relatively small sample of respondents who chose to report their own behaviour.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting